Sick of arguing with your friends about who is the best player in the NBA? Leading into the ’13-14 NBA Season, Ball So Hard will be putting an end to the debate. Here is the decisive list of the 50 best NBA players.
Note: predictions are for the up coming season and rank players on how they will perform in the ’13-14 season.
No. 26, LaMarcus Aldridge
Once the NBA season ends, leading into the draft, the speculation surrounding the first pick is usually so intense that once it is time to pick there is an obvious choice. Each year, guys like LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis virtually pick themselves. And the success rate with a number one pick is pretty high.
Meanwhile, the second pick, while it may seem easy at the time, is generally harder to choose a guy who lives up to the hype.
In the past 10 years, only two second overall picks have been selected to an NBA All-Star game and All-NBA team.
One is Kevin Durant – who, in hindsight, should’ve been the first pick.
The other? LeMarcus Aldridge.
Although Aldridge’s numbers steadily increased over those four seasons – averaging 16 points, 7.1 boards and a block – it wasn’t until Roy was forced into an early retirement that Aldridge was finally able to assert himself as the face of the Blazers franchise.
Without Roy in the lineup, Aldridge’s game flourished as he began to harness the potential that warranted his high draft position. Over the past three seasons, LA boosted his production to 21.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and has been rewarded with All-Star selection for the past two seasons.
Aldridge is one of the best shooting big men in the league, and his silky smooth jumper is wet from practically anywhere on the floor. Unlike most jump shooting bigs, Aldridge can, and does, shoot it from anywhere on the floor. You’re just as likely to see him backing his man down in the post, as you are likely to see him popping a J from the elbow or the top of the key. Last season, He hit 43% of his attempts between 3-23 feet.
He is yet to develop a consistent three-point shot – having only made 21 in his career – but with all the success Aldridge has within the arc, it hardly seems a necessity.
And it isn’t just jump shooting that LA excels at. His offensive diversity means he is equally efficient taking the ball inside. Last season, he hit 69.4% of his shots at the rack. And he isn’t afraid of taking contact, finishing top 20 in free throws made and attempted, converting at 81% from the stripe.
Over the past few seasons, Aldridge has embraced his new role as Portland’s leader on the floor. Last season he took the sixth most field goals in the league, behind only LeBron, Kobe, KD, Westbrook and Melo.
It should also be noted how durable Aldridge is, playing the ninth most minutes in the league last year. This durability contributed to how well Aldridge closed out games over the past few years. Just ask his hometown Dallas Mavericks about their experiences with Aldridge…twice.
This offseaon, the Blazers made some much needed improvements to their bench – adding CJ McCollum, Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright, Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez – which should help relieve some of the pressure on Aldridge and burgeoning star Damian Lillard.
Unfortunately, the poor selections of Sam Bowie or Greg Oden often overshadow Portland’s recent draft picks, and their latest selections don’t receive nearly enough praise. Picking Aldridge second overall in ’06 is certainly one of the biggest steals in recent history. Who would you rather have; Andrea Bargnani or Aldridge?
The journey of a second overall pick is usually defined by potential. What separates LaMarcus Aldridge from Darko Milicic, Marvin Williams and Hasheem Thabeet is his ability to realise that potential.
This year’s Portland Trail Blazers are also ripe with potential, and with Aldridge leading the charge they should make a solid push for the postseason.