You won’t see LaMarcus Aldridge on any big magazine covers. There are no video games centered on him. Few highlight packages of his dominance. No signature shoes. No internationally-known ad-campaigns. And, outside the core NBA audience and the hardcore fans out in Portland, far fewer All-Star votes than other bigs in the league.
These are the disadvantages of being a big player with no traditional, ‘highlight-reel’ skill-set. He’s not a high-flier like Blake Griffin. Doesn’t block, run the floor and attack like Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, or DeMarcus Cousins. Doesn’t have the sublime post moves or passing skills of the Gasols. His popularity has taken a hit as he hasn’t yet been deep into the playoffs yet like Duncan, Nowitzki, Bosh, or Garnett. And he hasn’t put up remarkable individual stats like Kevin Love did in Minnesota.
Even on his own team, the starting point guard Damian Lillard – with his popular Adidas relationship and clutch antics – gets more hype than the consistent big man. But Aldridge is now used to it all, and despite the outside noise (or lack thereof), he continues to play at a high-level year in and year out.
“I think guys who do less definitely get more hype than me at times,” he told the Washington Post, “But I’m used to it.”
But hype or no hype, Aldridge has remained consistent, and his consistency has proven to be fruitful for the Trail Blazers. He is one of just three players to have averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds the last two seasons (the other two are Davis and Cousins). He has averaged over 19 and 8 his entire career and is putting up career-best scoring numbers this season (23.4 ppg) to go with 10.3 rebounds per game, too. He is the third-leading scorer in the league among the bigs, again, trailing only Davis and Cousins. He has made four consecutive All-Star teams, each time earning the respect of the coaches than the popularity of the NBA fan ballot.
During Portland’s First Round series last playoffs against the Rockets, many fans may remember Lillard’s big series-winning three; but the real reason for the Trail Blazers being in the position for an upset was Aldridge’s brilliance throughout the series. He scored over 40 points in the first two games of the series and finished with averages of 29.8 points and 2.5 blocks per game in Portland’s 4-2 win.
The momentum carried into this season, as his scoring numbers improved, and Portland rose even higher up the West. Despite tearing a ligament in his left thumb, he decided against surgery, choosing to play through pain to stay dedicated to the team’s championship chase.
Aldridge has made the All-NBA Third Team twice in his career, most recently last season, and it seems likely that he will make the jump to Second Team this year. The sweet-shooting big man is one of the best power forwards in the league right now. While the rest of his team has dealt with injuries (Wesley Mattews, Robin Lopez), inconsistencies (Lillard, Nicolas Batum), and transactions (bringing in Aaron Afflalo), Aldridge has kept the ship steady, from the top, leading the team in points and rebounds, again this season. The Trail Blazers have already locked up the Northwest division and could shoot for as high as second place in the West if the chips fall in their place in the season’s last week.
Regardless of how this season ends, Aldridge will be a wanted man this offseason, as he enters free agency and recruiters from all over the league – from New York to San Antonio to Los Angeles and more – will be fighting for his signature. It will be in the open market when both serious and casual fans will be reminded of the value that he adds to his team, and how that value could translate to other teams around the league.
But, as of now, it seems that Aldridge is fully committed to the team and the community over in Portland, and anything other than an extension with the Trail Blazers – where he has the potential to become one of the greatest players in the franchise’s storied history – is unlikely.
Get to know him
Ultimately, like other players with greater ambitions, Aldridge will eventually be judged and remembered for what he does in the post-season. Now in his ninth season, he has only been to the playoffs four times and advanced to the second round just once: last year. So far, he has allowed his game to do the talking to garner respect and accolades among his peers and NBA coaches; if he can lead his team to greater, consistent playoff success, casual fans are going to get to know him a whole lot better, too.