By Robbie Lehman
Call him underrated if you want.
LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be playing in the 2011 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles on February 19.
But he should be.
Night in and night out, the Portland power forward has willed his Trail Blazers to wins and kept it competitive in every game with his massive production.
He currently averages 22.1 points per game, along with 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.25 blocks a game. He’s compiled 26 double-doubles while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. The 6-11 big man has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.8, good for 20th overall in the NBA. All this comes in under 40 minutes of playing time per contest.
Even more telling are Aldridge’s split stats: after a slow start to the season, he has had a breakout 2011 so far, putting up 24.9 ppg in January and 28.5 so far in February.
In three games from Feb. 7-13, the fifth-year player has posted 42 (vs Chicago), 37 (at Toronto) and 36 points (at Detroit)—all Portland wins. Only one other Blazer in history has scored 35+ in three consecutive games, and that’s Clyde Drexler.
But it’s about more than numbers.
To Aldridge, it’s about putting his team in the best position to win.
He’s launched Portland into 6th place overall in the West with a 31-24 record.
At 25 years old, he’s been the most consistent Blazer after injuries have knocked out several other key players, including 2-time All-Star Brandon Roy. It’s hard to imagine Portland being anywhere close to its current record without Aldridge in the rotation. He’s obviously proven himself as the cornerstone of the franchise going forward.
The Portland faithful, largely regarded as one of the best fan bases in the NBA, are craving for an All-Star. Words can’t explain what it would mean to the city and franchise that have been stricken with bad luck over the years. Blazer media relations department began an All-Star campaign for Aldridge with a “Vote LA to LA” theme. Still, no luck.
Power forward in the Western Conference was arguably the toughest All-Star position race. Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan made the squad: Aldridge did not.
The former second overall pick out of Texas in the 2006 NBA Draft, Aldridge doesn’t have the veteran, championship resume of Duncan. He doesn’t have the hype of Anthony, the large media market of Nowitzki, nor does he get the gushing media attention given to the younger, and flashier, Griffin (rookie) and Durant (3rd year). Durant and Love, leading the league in scoring and rebounding, respectively, deserves their nods.
Meanwhile, LA has gotten overlooked nationally as he produces in the Pacific Northwest, even as several NBA analysts have dubbed him a top five scorer in the paint.
Aldridge insists he’s not extra motivated by the All-Star “snub,” as everyone likes to call it. He’s given politically correct answers in every interview, which is understandable. No one knows for sure what’s going on inside his head other than him. But he’s certainly letting his game speak for itself.