After listening to an interview on Jim Rome’s radio show the other day, I learned that LaMarcus Aldridge knows a lot. He knows not to have caffeine before bed. He knows too much orange juice can be a bad thing.
And he knows that he shouldn’t hold his breath for a spot on the all star team this season. But that’s where he’s wrong.
You see, the Blazers are playing relatively well even without Brandon Roy, a number of media guys have prematurely proclaimed the team to be a real contender in the West this year, and LaMarcus is the leading scorer in Portland. As a matter of fact, he is the seventh leading scorer in the entire NBA. Unlike last year, the coaches will almost certainly recognize these all-important factors, and LaMarcus will finally get that spot on the all-star team he has deserved for so long. Does he really deserve it, though? Why don’t we take a look at how Aldridge stacks up against the average NBA Power Forward.
|Stat||LaMarcus Aldridge||Average PF|
So far this season, Aldridge’s number are nearly identical to his numbers last season. He is an above average player, but just not by much. In fact, he hovers right around average with respect to nearly every single stat, with one big exception. You guessed it, points! And so goes the story of Aldridge’s career: lots of scoring, pretty average everywhere else. Patrick Minton (the NBA Geek) has hypothesized that Aldridge is so well regarded not only because he scores so much, but also because it looks so pretty when he does it.
If Aldridge Isn’t the Reason the Blazers Have Been Playing Well, Who Is?
The numbers reveal that Portland is a pretty well rounded team, and there is not one particular player that drives the team’s success. But four players have produced more for the Blazers this year than Aldridge: Gerald Wallace, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Marcus Camby. Wallace in his unabashed intensity, and his converse Camby, who defies age every year to quietly put up huge numbers, have both been super productive since they joined the league. They have also been remarkably unheralded despite their great play, though Camby won a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006-07. As a side note, Aldridge better have his fingers crossed that Camby isn’t out too long, as it puts his probable all-star spot in jeopardy. As for Matthews and Batum, both have offered up above average numbers since entering the league. In fact, the only Blazers playing big minutes with bad numbers are Raymond Felton, who has traditionally been relatively productive, and Jamal Crawford. Crawford, who is generally regarded as one of the great offseason acquisitions this year has been very consistently below average throughout his career. You see, despite his remarkable prowess in scoring points!, he has been below average with respect to shooting efficiency, rebounds, and steals. If you didn’t already figure it out using the eye test, he shoots too much. Crawford aside though, Portland is a pretty good team not only because it has Aldridge, but because it has Wallace and Camby, and having Aldridge helps a little, too.
If Not Aldridge, Then Who?
It’s all but a foregone conclusion that Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin will be selected by the fans to start at the forward positions in the 2012 all-star game. Using that as a given, four power forwards out West stand out as better choices for the coaches than our friend LaMarcus: Kevin Love (did I even have to mention his name?), Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, and Serge Ibaka. While most can probably see the merit in choosing Love and Gasol over Aldridge, Millsap and Ibaka might seem like a bit of a stretch. To be sure, let’s compare.
|Player||LaMarcus Aldridge||Paul Millsap||Serge Ibaka||Average PF|
Millsap has put up above average numbers almost everywhere, but his shooting efficiency, which is through the roof, is what has made him great. Ibaka is also shooting well and appears to be the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo (okay, maybe not quite that good) with his shot blocking.
So what does all this mean? Well, Aldridge will probably be an all-star this year. But he shouldn’t be. Not that he is a bad player; on the contrary, he is above average. But he’s just not great. And there are other power forwards in the West that have been great this year. It’s nothing new though that playing well isn’t what sways the All-Star voters (the fans and the coaches). The strategy of scoring a lot of points on a good team is the best way to get an All-Star berth and that’s something Aldridge will know after this season.