Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/10/14
Dwayne_poster

The Blazers new G.M. needs to suspend the notion that Portland can build around LaMarcus Aldridge and become a contender. Aldridge is not a player that you can build around – he is a nice complementary piece to a championship puzzle – but LaMarcus Aldridge will never be “The Man”. Aldridge is basically the same player he was five seasons ago, except that he has added a more complete offensive repertoire and shoots a slightly higher percentage. Five years ago, in his second season, Aldridge averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 48.4% from the field and 76.2% from the line. He's bumped those averages up slightly, reaching career highs in field goal shooting (51.2%), free throws (81.4%) and assists (2.4), while averaging 21.7 points and 8 rebounds this season. But, this is the season he was suppose to take over for Brandon Roy and make it his team, to raise up his game to a new level and become a bonafide superstar. That didn't happen. We have seen his peak as a player. That's right, LaMarcus Aldridge is as good as he's gonna get. For a quick comparison, Kevin Love went from averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds per game as a rookie to 26 points and 13 rebounds in this, his fourth season. His was a steady and marked improvement in all phases of the game. That is the kind of advancement in skills you like to see out of a top-5 lottery pick.

 

If L.A. is ever going to become what his supporters think that he has already become, he has to work on multiple things. Aldridge must become more dominant on both ends of the floor in the paint. It's as simple, or as hard, as that. For a 6'11, 245 pound athletic specimen to average just 8 rebounds and 1 block in almost 37 minutes per game is pathetic. The improvement is only going to come with lots of hard work on learning how to block out and gain position on the inside – two skills that seemed to pass LaMarcus by on his quick assent to the NBA. Aldridge must take the ball directly at the rim more often and get to the line more. The past two seasons - his best career years - Aldridge has averaged just 5.5 free throw attempts per game. For comparison, Dwight Howard has averaged almost 11 attempts per game for the past five seasons! LaMarcus must become a vocal leader and game-changing defender. These things don't just happen. They are developed in the off-season, by working out on fundamentals and building his strength to show his teammates, the coaching staff, and the fans why he is getting paid an obscene amount of money to play a game.

I give you another comparison, this time to a 6'11 center that was born in the same year, but entered the league two years ahead of Aldridge. The aforementioned, Dwight Howard, at 265 pounds, might seem like an unfair comparison, based on his superior size and athleticism, but when you look at the numbers these two are remarkably similar in some categories (age, height, scoring) and then vastly different in others (rebounding, blocked shots, free-throw%). Howard is definitely the alpha dog of the two, but that is mainly due to the effort and intensity that he puts into the game – going directly at the glass on both ends of the court. Howard has also played in all 82 games in 5 of his 8 seasons. Aldridge has never played in 82 games. Howard averages almost six more rebounds per game than LaMarcus for the past five seasons. Howard gets over 2 blocks per game over his career, while Aldridge barely manages one per contest.

They both score right around 20 points per contest; Howard is more efficient from the field (59% to 50%), while Aldridge is a much better foul shooter (78% to 59%). If Aldridge could just harness a fraction of that killer instinct that the great ones possess he would be a remarkable player. LaMarcus needs to gain some more muscle, along with a better understanding of defensive positioning and strategy, to become a dominant force on both ends of the court and possibly become “The Man” that lots of Blazer fans have already anointed their new All-Star to be. And just because he's an all-star now, doesn't mean that he needs to be referred to as all-star every time his name is mentioned. LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star. O.K. We get it. Now go out and prove it every night!

I agree on one thing with Aldridge supporters; He is a very effective offensive weapon. Heck, he's 8th in the NBA in scoring, ahead of Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, and Howard among others. Aldridge has an array of scoring moves and an ever expanding range on his fade-away that is impossible to stop one on one. His career highs of 52% on field goals and 81.4% on free throws this season attest to that. He has also been remarkably consistent for the past five seasons, averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field and almost 80% from the line. Aldridge was 3rd in the NBA in minutes played per game last season and finished 16th this year. Aldridge is the 28th-ranked rebounder in the league, and the conventional wisdom is that he should be a top-10 rebounder. But, to back up Aldridge's rebounding prowess, only four players ranked ahead of him on the list averaged over 20 points per game (David Lee, Howard, Love, Griffin), and only Love averaged more points than Aldridge. Although, when you look at rebounds per 48 minutes, LaMarcus drops all the way down to 140th place! It seems that every single player in the league that is 6'10 or taller is ahead of Aldridge on that list. Aldridge is not a double-double guy either, ranking 33rd in the NBA this season.

For perspective, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries had twice as many double-doubles this season and Love had almost four times as many as Aldridge. The illustrious list of players that averaged more blocks per game than Aldridge this season is a literal “who's that?” of NBA big men; Boston's Greg Stiemsma averages 1.6 blocks in under 14 minutes per contest, while Chicago's Omer Asik gets over a block a game in 14.8 minutes. Two rookies, Tristan Thompson (1.1) and Bismack Biyombo (1.7), get more blocks per game while playing just over 20 minutes per contest.

Aldridge is ranked 13th in Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating for the season, which is a pretty good barometer of ranking how well NBA players play in games. The top five are LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love. Aldridge ranked ahead of Tim Duncan, Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant this season. I really want to like LaMarcus, but he just doesn't exude the toughness on the court or the confidence in his teammates to lead them to the promised land. Sure, L.A. is “cool” and “smooth”, but I'm looking for someone who's gonna play tough, lockdown defense and when the game is on the line, I want the guy who takes the ball at the opponent, right to the rim, making something happen, not the weak-ass fade-away jumper that has become so popular today.

What guy is LaMarcus Aldridge?

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