Aldridge set to finish season strong

March, 27, 2009
03/27/09
10:03
AM ET
THURSDAY, MARCH 26
HIGHLIGHTS
Kobe Bryant, Lakers: 30 points (10-18 FG, 9-10 FT), 8 rebounds, 7 assists versus Detroit.
Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers: 26 points (11-19 FG), 9 rebounds, 6 assists against Phoenix.
John Salmons, Bulls: 27 points (12-22 FG), 5 assists versus the Heat.
LOWLIGHTS
Matt Barnes, Suns: 2 points (1-8 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists against the Trail Blazers.
Tayshaun Prince, Pistons: 7 points (3-13 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers versus the Lakers.
Rodney Stuckey, Pistons: 5 points (2-8 FG), 2 rebounds, 3 assists against the Lakers.

Some games, you look at the box score, and things don't make a whole lot of sense. Last night's tilt between the Suns and Trail Blazers in Portland, as I study it now, is most certainly one of those games. First, the Blazers, the second-best rebounding team in the league in terms of margin, were outrebounded by the Suns. Second, they were outrebounded mostly because they got a combined 45 minutes and just two rebounds out of Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden. Those guys, even now, currently are first and ninth in the entire league in rebound rate. I can't express to you how amazing this is. Third, the Blazers won the game anyway.

OK, having said my piece about the rebounding, it's the whys about the win itself that I think are important for fantasy. Basically, the Blazers got fantastic performances from Brandon Roy, who is always fantastic, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who seems to be always fantastic but gets completely ignored most of the time by people like me. What strikes me as most amazing about the two of these guys, even in light of their statistical accomplishments, is the fact their best skill is probably their extreme ability to take care of the ball. Besides Antawn Jamison, there's nobody in the league with as high a usage rate and as low a turnover rate as LaMarcus Aldridge, and I think it's that combination that's going to end up making him an elite fantasy player some time in the near future.

First, let's just say that what Aldridge gives you right now, in terms of fantasy, is significant, but certainly nothing to write home about. His 18.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists are good numbers, but they don't look like the stats of an elite power forward, and they are most definitely a tier below guys like Al Jefferson and David West. Nearly one steal per game is solid for a big man, but it's mitigated by the somewhat disappointing 0.9 blocks (down from 1.2 last season). Aldridge's 48.2 percent shooting from the floor is impressive when you consider how many jump shots he takes, but isn't as good as most good players his size, again, because of all the jump shots.

For all of that, Aldridge is clearly a prodigious talent. His range is beginning to slowly extend out to the 3-point line, and yet he's got better low post moves than just about anyone in the league. His rebound rate is down, but maybe that's because he's playing with two of the best rebounders in the league, in terms of rate, in Oden and Przybilla. He hasn't been a great shot-blocker, but the three blocks against the Suns looked pretty great on Thursday night. He's 23 years old, and so far has improved every year he's been in the league. Right now, he's 47th on the Player Rater (76th if you go by averages), and I see him improving on both those numbers quite a bit next season. For the rest of this season, you can probably expect closer to the 26.5 points and 12.0 rebounds he's averaged in his past two games than the aforementioned 18 and 7 he's averaged for the season.

Under the Boards

Rudy Fernandez is heating up for the Trail Blazers, going for 19 against the Sixers and then 23 against the Suns. The Blazers' next game is against the Grizzlies in Portland, so you can probably expect Fernandez to stay hot. … Dwyane Wade was back to being himself after a bad shooting night, putting up 31 points on just 21 shots. Obviously, you weren't worried about him anyway, I hope. … Can't say the same about Wade's teammates, who were totally whipped by the Bulls. Six players had decent fantasy nights for the Bulls, including all five starters and Brad Miller off the bench. … It's evident that the Pistons are in major trouble without Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace, as their best player on Thursday night was Will Bynum, who had 25 points and 11 assists in 34 minutes as the Pistons were trounced by the Lakers. You can't really take anything from a performance like this. Besides Antonio McDyess' double-double, all the rest of the Pistons' numbers are suspect until they are healthy.

Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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