Top 50 NBA Players: #23 LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge
Resume: 21.1 points (9th in league), 9.1 rebounds (career best), 2.6 assists (career best), 1.2 blocks (career best), 37.7 minutes (9th in league), 38 double-doubles (8th in league), 48% FG, and 81% FT… Team record in games played: 32-42 (1-7 without)… All-Star

Perhaps the most underrated, underappreciated and most seldom discussed player that lands in my top 25 is Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Despite having a name that sounds like an NBA superstar, he flies under the radar due to a relatively bland nickname (“L.A.” wasn’t exactly a stretch of the imagination), minimal team success (Portland has only made the playoffs three times in Aldridge’s tenure there, and they’ve lost in the first round each time), and a general lack of coolness to his game (I enjoy a nice jump hook and reliable mid-range jumper as much as the next guy, but that’s really all he has).

Mar 21, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) attempts to pass the ball against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

For as good as Aldridge is, it’s rare to hear basketball analysts or fans or my friends who are basketball fans rave about him, or even just talk about him in any context. There isn’t really one defining LaMarcus Aldridge game that jumps off of the page and needs to be discussed, and looking at his game logs you see that he is a model of consistency rather than someone who mixes in big performances with average games. Nearly all of his 30+ points games during the 2012-13 season were in defeat (including a 30 point, 21 rebound loss to Golden State, his best stat line of the season), and his best stat line in a victory was 29 point, 13 rebound, one game winning shot against Dallas. In large part his stat lines, just like the rest of his game, don’t overwhelm or blow you away. But that shouldn’t necessarily be to his detriment.

Just because consistency could be boring at times that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it. He’s as safe a bet to get you a post up score as anyone else in the league—which is why even though he is a good shooter, it’s frustrating that he took more shots from16 feet and beyond than he did from inside 8 feet— and can score with the aforementioned jump hook or a pretty turnaround jumper that he can get off over any defender. Defensively he’s long enough, quick enough and smart enough to make up for his lack of athleticism and strength when compared to some other players at his position. He’s been a solid 21-8 guy for the last three years, and this past season he was the only player in the entire league to average over 20 points and 9 rebounds per game (LeBron and Durant were just short on the rebounds, David Lee missed out by one and a half points, and some others were close as well). There is good reason why Portland is hesitant to part ways with Aldridge: he’s really freaking good. Why wouldn’t you want to build a future around Aldridge, Lillard (who has the potential a top 20 player in a few years), Batum (an improving top 50 player), a revamped supporting cast, and potentially a future free agency steal somewhere down the road? Portland didn’t get any good luck with Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, but they seemingly connected on Batum, Lillard, and most certainly Aldridge.