The Portland Trailblazers were a struggling franchise during the first decade of the 2000s. They had some success near the turn of the millennium but had the bad boy, “Jailblazer” image. In a stacked Western Conference, they didn’t have the players or the image. Their best player, Brandon Roy, was one of the top young stars in the league, but his career was stopped short because of chronic knee issues. They were flat out, an unlucky franchise. They did have a young power forward to build around though. LaMarcus Aldridge does not get the attention that other big stars in big markets get in the NBA. He doesn’t even get the full attention from the media as the star of Portland and that instead goes to young, dynamic point guard Damian Lillard. The three-time All-Star is one of the top players in the league and the focal point of the Portland Trailblazers’ scouting report. Heading into a contract year, he is worth a maximum deal as the Blazers look to continue their surge in the Western Conference.
When looking at Aldridge, you see a long, lanky power forward. He strikes many as a finesse player based on his 6-foot-11, 250-pound frame. After finishing his freshman season at the University of Texas, Aldridge declared for the NBA Draft and was the second overall pick in 2006 by the Chicago Bulls. After a rookie season in which he didn’t play a ton of minutes, Aldridge announced his presence in year two. He averaged over 17 points per game and since then he hasn’t averaged below that number. He is the top mid-range jump shooter among big men in the league. He can hit turnaround jumpers, face-up jumpers and is very difficult to block because of his high release point. From 2010-2012, he shot over 50 percent from the field and averaged over 21 points per game. In 2012, he made his first All-Star appearance and has made three straight trips to the All-Star game.
This past season, Aldridge took an even further step forward in his development. Portland won 54 games during the regular season and made the playoffs where they advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs before losing to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. Teaming with Lillard, Aldridge helped form one of the top inside-outside duos in the game today. He averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds and free throw percentage. With his 23-plus point per game average and double-digit rebounding each night, he was a consistent double-double threat, a rarity in the game today. In addition, he is an excellent free throw shooter, hitting over 80 percent from the charity stripe which makes his offensive game even more difficult to defend. While he has a thinner frame, he also averaged a block and a steal per game.
One big knock on Aldridge is his durability and he missed several games this season with various injuries. Aldridge has played in over 74 games per season in five of his eight NBA seasons and has never played less than 55 in a season. If the Portland Trail Blazers don’t offer him a max deal when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, some other team will. He is one of the best big men in the NBA and is not even 30 yet. If Rashard Lewis can get a max deal in his career, Aldridge is sure as heck worth the price tag that comes along with his services. Chris M.