Fans missed not voting in Aldridge
January, 24, 2014
By Rachel Stern | ESPN.com
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesLaMarcus Aldridge ranks in the NBA's top five in scoring and rebounding.Thursday night, LaMarcus Aldridge led the Portland Trail Blazers over the Denver Nuggets with a dominating effort, prompting teammate Wesley Matthews to say,
"What can you say? He's an MVP candidate. Best power forward in the game. I've been saying that for two years now. He put it on display again tonight."
Aldridge finished with a career-high 44 points on 15-of-29 shooting with 13 rebounds in the five-point win.
Aldridge’s outburst happened to come the same night the All-Star starters were announced – his name was not included. Though Aldridge said his performance had nothing to do with the omission, he provided further evidence as to why the fans got it wrong.
Here is why Matthews was right and Aldridge should be an All-Star starter:
Aldridge is enjoying his best season, averaging career highs in points (24.2), rebounds (11.6) and player efficiency rating (23.9).
He has reached those marks by doing a bit of everything. Aldridge is one of the best post-up players in the NBA. He is second in the league in points on post-up plays with 351 (8.4 per game).
But what has made Aldridge such a tough cover for big men is his mid-range game. According to NBA.com, he has taken 582 mid-range shots this season, by far the most in the league, forcing defenders to venture outside the paint to contest his jumper. He is shooting 43.6 percent from the floor from that range, ranking 18th this season among players who have taken at least 150 shots from that range.
Often, Aldridge creates those mid-range looks by being the pick-and-pop man. He is averaging 5.1 points per game as the pick-and-roll man, most in the league.
Aldridge has helped lead the Blazers to a 32-11 record, good for third in the Western Conference and just one game behind the conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.
The team’s success, both offensively and defensively, has much to do with Aldridge. The Blazers are scoring nearly 11 more points per 100 possessions offensively with Aldridge on the court and giving up about 6 more points per 100 possessions defensively with him off the court.
Aldridge has also been his team’s go-to-guy when it has mattered most, and Thursday's game was a perfect example.
The Blazers trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter, but pulled off the come-from-behind win. Aldridge scored his team’s final 15 points and outscored the Nuggets entire team 15-8 over the final 6:33.
Aldridge has become one of the most relied on clutch players in the NBA this season. In clutch time (the last five minutes of a game with the score within five points), Aldridge has attempted 61 shots, making 21 for 77 points.
Aldridge became the third Blazer in the past 25 seasons with a 40-10-5 game on Thursday. Whether his performance was in response to his omission as an All-Star starter or not, it was just another example of why he deserves to be in the starting lineup on February 16.