The most important Blazer in the immediate future is LaMarcus Aldridge. Now, some might say no it’s Damian Lillard. Although you could make a great case for Lillard being the most important, it’s a moot point. Aldridge sets the pace on offense, and he needs to be an anchor on defense. Lillard may run the point and set up the offensive plays, but Aldridge will be the reason this season that the Blazers rise or fall.
|Photo Courtesy of: bleacherreport.net|
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I think Aldridge is the best power forward in the game today. If you want to debate with me, go for it. However, Aldridge has the best skill set, the best abilities of the power forwards currently in the League. You match him up with others in the past or future, he isn’t the best, but he has so many things going for him.
Looking back over his career, Aldridge has improved every year in scoring. Before Brandon Roy got hurt, Aldridge never averaged more than 18.1 points per game. After Roy left Portland, Aldridge has averaged 21 points a game. His rebounding numbers haven’t changed much. He went from averaging eight or fewer rebounds with Roy to averaging eight or more. Last year he almost averaged a double-double (21.1 points, 9.1 rebounds). He is a career 49.3% shooter from the field, yes he's that good.
Since he bulked up and started beating on the block, Aldridge has scored more, rebounded better and even assisted better. Now a lot of people will argue that the only reason Aldridge starting scoring and playing better in general is because Roy got hurt. As true as that may be, Aldridge worked as hard as he could to keep Portland competitive because he was (and now is) the last one of the Portland Big Three plan.
Aldridge couldn’t carry the team by himself, just like Roy couldn’t, but now Aldridge is an experienced, hard-nosed, back-you-down, true power forward. Some may still think he issoft or takes too many “turn-around” shots, but I say if they go down, shoot the ball. For the longest time Aldridge’s biggest problem was that he was too nervous and hesitant to shoot. Now, he knows he is the longest tenured player in Portland, with the most playoff experience in a Blazer uniform and that means he has to be the engine of this team.
Aldridge will provide everything the Blazers need to be successful. He gives them a dominant and consistent scorer down low. He can step outside and hit those patented 12-foot jumpers. He can hit threes (if they’re wide open). He can defend the post. He can defend the pick-and-roll. He can alter shots. The list just goes on for miles.
Now, to the speculation part of the program; Aldridge does NOT want out of Portland. I know people will say “how do you know” or “are you sure” and yes I am. I know you can’t always trust social media, but every time Aldridge was mentioned in trade rumors he refuted them. At one point, he was pissed. There was a report that he was meeting with GM Neil Olshey during a Summer League game to discuss trade options. Aldridge was in Texas that night. He tweeted something like “Oh so now we’re making stuff up. SMH” (SMH is Shaking My Head). Aldridge made a pact with Roy to make Portland relevant again, and even without Brandon around I know that Aldridge will fight to bring the Blazers back.
As much as I’ve talked about Aldridge being the key to the Blazers success, he can’t do it alone. He tried to do that two years ago and clearly that didn’t work. Now with a solid starting five consisting of Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and himself, Aldridge won’t have to be the lone wolf on offense. Now I’m sure you’re saying, well the only difference in the starting lineup is Lopez, how will that make such a big difference? Lopez is 7’0”, J.J. Hickson was 6’9”, those 3 inches can make a world of a difference. Lopez can also back down defenders. Now Aldridge will draw the power forwards on offense and defense from other teams instead of drawing the centers like he did with Hickson.
Also, Meyers Leonard will be a huge piece if he plays with Aldridge. Meyers can shoot outside shots (see Fan Fest, he hit at least three outside shots) and he is a much better all-around player. With bigger, more experienced bodies around him and coming off the bench, teams will have to pick their poison. Do they slow Aldridge or slow Lopez? Do they slow Aldridge or do they try to take advantage of Thomas Robinson? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Finally, with the depth at guard and small forward, the Blazers have a lot more shooting on the perimeter. Aldridge and Lopez can create space down low and kick out to the three point line and put teams away that way. If anyone is going to make the Blazers a championship contender, it’s Aldridge. However, if he isn’t healthy or can’t make the impact I know he is capable of then it won’t be a surprise if the team makes another first round exit. It’s almost time to unleash the beast, and watch out because he is fired up with a massive chip on his shoulder; the L-Train is coming to a station near you, be careful you don’t get run over.