Chris Bosh or LaMarcus Aldridge; Not who is better, but who really fits?

In response to a recent post explaining why I elected not to renew my season tickets largely due to the trade of Travis Outlaw, I was asked what I thought of the LaMarcus Aldridge for Chris Bosh trade rumors.

In some respects, it is an intriguing question and one that is difficult for me to be objective about. I freely admit to being a huge LaMarcus Aldridge mark. I am tired of the oft-cited and remarkably inept criticisms that Aldridge is "soft", that his post-up game is not good enough, that he relies too much on his jump shot, that his defense is inadequate and his rebounding borderline incompetent.

I also recognize the skill Bosh brings to the table. There is a lot to compare in their games.

Both players have silky smooth mid-range jumpers. Inside his range, I actually think Bosh is the superior shooter, though that is merely anecdotal evidence. Due to his playing in Toronto, I have only ever seen a handful of his games and as a result I must base most of my opinion on statistics, which often lie.

Based on statistics the team of Tom Chambers, Xavier McDaniel and Dale Ellis was awesome when in truth, they scored a lot but gave up a lot of points too. Their scoring numbers say nothing about their individual or team defense, their cohesiveness, or those little things teammates do to improve each other.

So I must base my analysis of Bosh on the games I have seen live in Portland for the most part.

Bosh is a genuine pleasure to watch in warm-ups. His jumper is silky smooth and sometimes you wonder if he will ever even hit the rim. Shot after shot brings that delicious snap of the net as the ball comes through on the precise trajectory to demonstrate the purity of a perfect shot.

Step-back, side-shuffle, face-up. Shot after shot after shot goes swish, swish, swish. His movement is crisp, his motions sure and effortless. He is a skilled player indeed, and this does not change when the game starts.

If a defender gives him the slightest space he rises up and two points go up on the board for the Raptors. Crowd him and he puts the ball on the floor and gets inside. I have rarely seen him do back to the basket post-up moves, but that does not say he is not a post player. I actually cannot honestly answer that question due to the paucity of coverage the Raptors get in Portland. I can say I have repeatedly seen him face up his man, get to the rim and finish strong.

On defense, Bosh appears to me to be better than average. He is strong enough to avoid getting run down, quick enough to help out when his guards get beat, and is an excellent rebounder. He has a very well-rounded game and would be an instant upgrade to almost any team that acquired him. You can count on two fingers the number of power forwards who are anywhere near his production and skill level.

Aldridge, meanwhile, has slightly better range than Bosh and, while not as high a percentage shooter, is still very good. He does have a post -game which is oft-maligned, and there is some merit to that. Of course, part of the problem with the criticism is it represents a poor analysis of Aldridge's game.

He is still developing his post play and, while it has shown vast improvement in the last couple of years, it is not yet the strength of his game. There are certain defenders against whom Aldridge simply has not yet been able to develop an effective move against. He recognizes this and, instead of continuing to put himself in a bad match-up, he drifts out to the perimeter where he has the advantage.

Not continuing to force up tough, contested shots in bad situations is an intelligent basketball play. Unfortunately, too many fans give the knee-jerk "Aldridge is soft" answer. I have a suggestion to those fans. Stick a sock in it and watch his game.

Aldridge plays down low against the big guys and, while his rebounding numbers are not huge, take a look at the timing and manner of them. Game after game I watch him come away with key rebounds whenre seven, eight, maybe nine guys are clustered inside the key trying to get the board and somehow Aldridge rips down what I like to call "man-boards".

He is not afraid to match up with players like Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and so forth night after night. He works hard, stays in the team concept, and does his job.

I genuinely believe part of the reason his rebound numbers are quote "low" is due to the guys next to him. Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden and Marcus Camby are all superior rebounders. An example would come from the Portland-Washington game of March 19th, 2010.

There were precisely 100 available non-free throw rebounds available. Camby came away with 19 of those, a staggering number that means nearly one of five times there was a ball caroming off the rim, Camby snagged it.

Assuming teams will garner approximately one half of the available rebounds and each player will contribute, that means the remaining nine players have roughly thirty rebounds to share among themselves. Guards are generally good for two to three apiece and the Blazers run four. Forwards should get roughly four to five apiece in the Portland system, and the Blazers essentially have three forwards other than Aldridge, so there are roughly forty-nine of the rebounds available accounted for. That is without Aldridge.

Naturally, part of the statistical analysis is average, and on any given night a guy who averages five boards might go without while a guy who averages two might get seven.

Aldridge checks in at a fairly steady seven to eight a night. He seldom has less, but often has more such as the dozen he tallied against the Wizards.

Even more notably, when the Blazers were starting Methuselah... err, Juwan Howard at center, or even rookie Jeff "Li'l Bit" Pendergraph, Aldridge was dialing up double digit boards seemingly every night.

His deflated rebound numbers are partially a product of the players he plays with is the short form of the statement I am making.

As Aldridge's biggest defender, I also think his defense is unfairly maligned. I am not nervous when he gets caught on the perimeter against smaller, quick players because he is quick enough, agile enough, and long enough to contest their shots. Of course, sometimes they score because that is what the Chris Pauls and Tony Parkers of the NBA world do...they score against bad defense, average defense, and good defense.

Aldridge is at his best coming off his man to contest a shot, but he is also a decent man to man defender. He is often accused of lacking intensity, and this is accurate. He also likes to slap at the ball low a bit much for my liking, but he also pokes away a lot of balls.

He is definitely not an All-NBA defender, but he is improving every year.

Off the court, there is little to complain about for either player. In many ways, Bosh has certain advantages in that regard. Chris Bosh has a great sense of humor, though it is flawed...he seems to find Will Ferrell funny despite stuff like Semi-Pro. 3
Bosh is also noted for his work in the community and has a lot going for him as a potential player.
Let me emphasize again that I am a huge Aldridge player and, since everyone else jumped on the Roy bandwagon, he is probably my absolute favorite player.
With that said, I believe Bosh is the superior overall player. Bosh is better defensively and offensively, he seems to get along with his teammates better than Aldridge, who is oft criticized by local media for being standoffish (which may have more to do with media perception than actual truth...I am not privy to the internal workings of the Blazers organization).
He very well could improve the Blazers to the point where a Championship goes from being a realistic but somewhat long shot possibility next season to a favorite if he were traded for some package such as Aldridge, Martell Webster, and whatever spare parts were needed to make the salaries match up.
Of course, there are several problems with the above scenario, and just to save the people who hate my article time, let me present a couple; Bosh may not want to leave Toronto, he may not want to come to Portland, the deal might not make sense from Torontos' standpoint as they may not feel the value in return is sufficient.
I, of course, feel Aldridge and Webster would be far too much to give up. And this has nothing to do with their respective ability.
I love Aldridge's game, I love that he has been a Bloazer since draft day, and I hope that he retires a Blazer. I do not want to see him in a Raptors uniform. In fact, you can replace the word "Raptors" with any team in the league not named "Blazers".
I hate any trade that sends Greg Oden, Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Brandon Roy, Jerryd Bayless, or Martell Webster away. Shrewd drafting has given the Blazers a roster that was "born" together, has grown up together, and it is time to watch them roll the League together.
I want to see the home-grown, home-developed players take their shot. Yes, I know about the problems...I know that Batum's development is limiting Webster's role. I know that Fernandez wants more playing time, a bigger role, and more money. I know the criticisms of Bayless as point guard and Oden as injury prone, of Roy as a weak defender and Aldridge as a soft player.
I also know that I love watching these guys play together, I love knowing they started their NBA PLAYING careers as Blazers and they are good enough to take a run at a couple of titles.
No, I am not a complete and total homer. I recognize how much acquiring Marcus Camby has improved the team this year, regardless of how much I hate the cost of losing another personal favorite, Travis Outlaw. I recognize that with all the injuries and the surprisingly poor play before the injuries started, Portland is not as good this season as the Cavaliers, Magic, Nuggets, Celtics, Lakers, and maybe even teams like the Suns, Hawks, Spurs, Jazz and maybe one or two others.
But they will be if and when they get healthy.
The fact that the Blazer teams of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth and Jerome Kersey never won a title never made me love watching them any less. If Portland could have traded Kersey for Pippen in their primes and won multiple titles, I would have loved them less because Pippen would be an import.
Yes, I grew to love the game of Buck Williams, but he was never as cool to me as our home-grown guys.
Yes, I love watching Andre Miller play, and his expanding game...two dunks this season, which I believe is probably a career high, and possibly a career TOTAL, is entertaining. Watching Camby block shot after shot and pull down rebound after rebound is cool. But I still like watching "my" guys more.
And the same would hold true for an Aldridge-Bosh trade. On a basketball level, depending on who they gave up, I think it would be an improvement for Portland. But on a personal level, I hate it.
And that gets to the root of fandom. Am I a fan of the player or the franchise? The real answer is both. I admit I turned on Drexler a bit when he more or less quit on Portland when it became obvious their run at a title was over, only to rejuvenate his career in Houston. I did not want to see him win a title there.
Kersey in a Laker uniform is a crime against humanity I will never get free from. I was sad to see him in Warriors, Spur and Buck gear...but I might have shed a tear when he wore that hated uniform. Porter played with the Timberwolves, Heat and Spurs. that also makes me sad.
Not because I did not want Drexler, Porter, Kersey, Cliff Robinson and so forth to have long, meaningful careers or that I did not want the Blazers to move forward. It was more because my development as a basketball and sports fan coincided with the careers of the players.
One reason I do not particularly follow college basketball is because of the rampant player change. Great college players are typically there for one or two years, good ones for three, and pedestrian players for four. Yes, there are exceptions, but that is pretty common.
That means to follow college basketball and have any real in-depth knowledge of what is going on, I have to learn four, five, six new players and their styles every year.
By contrast, even before this season ends and off-season moves take place, I have a pretty good idea of how the Blazers will play. For that matter, I can tell you what the typical Spurs, Nugget, Clipper or Warrior game will look like next year.
I know their offensive concept and where players should be on any given play. I know who should get the most shots and where those shots should come from. Sure, there will be adjustments. Of Patty Mills, Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph, Marcus Camby, Martell Webster, Andre Miller, and Rudy Fernandez there are likely to be anywhere from three to six new names in those places.
But I also expect the opening night Blazer line-up, barring injury, to have Oden, Aldridge, Batum and Roy for sure (and most likely Miller, but who knows?). I expect Aldridge to be posted up on the first two to three possessions, with Oden getting a couple of those and Roy driving at some point in the first five minutes or else taking that gorgeous pull-up jumper foul-line extended.
I would hate to see that broken up too soon even for a player such as Bosh. That is personal preference...but it is a strong one.


Travis Outlaw and Marcus Camby: How a Trade Cost the Blazers a Season Ticket holder

Some of my earliest sports-related memories revolve around the Blazers. Of course there was the seminal moment when I was six years old that saw the Cinderella team knock off the 76ers to win their first (and to this point only) championship.
My Dad, who is at best a casual sports fan, still gushes about the passing of Bill Walton, the speed and unselfish play of Johnny Davis, and so forth three decades later. That leaves an impression on a kid who idolizes his father.

Then there were the years of listening to the Schonz on the radio as I played along on my Fischer-Price hoop with the tennis-ball sized “basketballs” as guys like Kermit Washington, Calvin Natt, and Fat Lever fueled my imagination. Phrases such as "lickety-brindle, straight up the middle" became part of my vocabulary along with "you've GOT to make your free throws" and the still ubiquitous "rip city!"

As I began playing basketball more and more seriously myself, I modeled myself after “Mercy, Mercy” Jerome Kersey, even going so far as to adopt his jersey number.
During the Finals appearances by the Clyde Drexler/Terry Porter/Kevin Duckworth/Jerome Kersey years, for many of my friends and myself it was our pride and joy that, except for trade acquisition Buck Williams, the players had all effectively started their careers with the Blazers.

There is a reason the “Jailblazer” teams of Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Scottie Pippen and Steve Smith were never quite as popular as the other versions. Revisionist history would have us believe they were unpopular, but they were selling out the Rose Garden. They were still popular…but the energy that carried the whole city was lessened. There was less of a casual following.
These were not the players Blazer fans listened to as they developed from seldom-used rookies into a cohesive unit that coupld play with anyone in the NBA. Instead, they were a motley assortment of other team's cast-offs, fading veterans looking for one last chance, malcontents other teams traded off cheaply, and players with talent that was exceeded by their contracts.
No doubt they were still good or borderline great...and possibly even good enough to win a Championship had they not choked in Los Angeles...but there was just something missing. The connection was not there. They were popular and enjoyed, but not on the level the Drexler-Porter teams were.

The organization did the right thing, though. They went out, acquired on draft day good, solid citizens who also happened to be good, solid players. Instead of guys like Ruben Patterson, Damon Stoudemire, Darius Miles, Scottie Pippen and Zach Randolph we got guys like Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum.

I have been there for their rise and part of the enjoyment I have derived from following them has been the “grow with us” nature. The projected starting line-up of Greg Oden, Aldridge, Batum, Roy and Steve Blake with key reserves Joel Przybilla, Outlaw, Fernandez and Bayless featured seven of nine players who had never played an NBA game in any other uniform.

Of course, bringing in Andre Miller fundamentally altered this. And make no mistake…Miller is a significant upgrade from Sergio Rodriguez. He is a talent upgrade and brings several valuable assets to the team which are valuable and he is enjoyable to watch.
He is still a hired gun, though…Pryzbilla and Blake had been around so long they seemed like part of the family. Miller might be remembered as a Cavalier, Clipper, Nugget or 76er. His career is not and will not be defined by his time in Portland. This is nothing against Miller...he is a fine player and goes about his job in an admiral manner. I even have a certain affection for him.
Just not as much as I have for Jerryd Bayless, for example. Miller is, at this point, the superior player in every facet of the game that matters. But Bayless has been a Blazer since day one. I cannot stress enough how much that matters to me personally.

At this point, I think my bias has been clearly demonstrated. I like good players developed by the franchise much more than I do guys brought in from outside. Pippen, to me, will always be a Bull, just like Drexler will always be a Blazer, not a Rocket. (Yes, I realize Pippen won multiple Championships with the Bulls whereas Drexler won his outside Portland. Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound :-))

My own personal preference would be to watch these guys mature together, play together, and take their run at a title or two. I would rather see them try and miss than see a bunch of guys brought in via trade and free agency win it all.

It was one reason I absolutely despised the trade that sent Outlaw, Blake and cash to the Clippers for Marcus Camby. This is nothing against Camby. He is an obvious and immediate upgrade over Juwan Howard, Jeff Pendergraph, and Dante Cunningham at the center. He makes the team better this year.
In fact, I love what he brings to the team. He puts up prodigious rebounding numbers, his interior defense might be even better than that of Przybilla and Oden, and his passing with Aldridge is becoming a thing of beauty.

Nor is it a complaint about unloading Steve Blake. Blazer fans never warmed to him, he took a huge step backward in quality of play this year, he had been supplanted in the starting line-up by Andre Miller and was seeing his other minutes taken by Bayless, Rudy Fernandez, and Webster.

It is really about Outlaw. Here is a homegrown guy who provided some things the Blazers needed. He could create his own shot, he is a willing shooter in the fourth quarter and at crunch-time, and he is a genuinely likable guy.

Many Blazer fans looked past what he provided and saw only his limitations. He is oft criticized for his basketball IQ, his hit-or-miss commitment on defense and rebounding, and his pedestrian passing skills. What they overlook is the way Coach McMillan used his strengths while hiding his weaknesses…and that he was homegrown.

You can count on one hand the number of players who do not have huge holes in their game. Focusing on the negative at the expense of the positive would have Aldridge, Roy, Oden…the entire Blazer roster, in fact…exiting town rather quickly.

But the point is, the Blazers sent a guy out of town I loved in favor of a short-term rental. Sure, many people felt Outlaw would not be resigned…but to me, that was never a certainty. He brings things to the table McMillan loves, and GM Kevin Pritchard has repeatedly shown he is on the same page as McMillan. So maybe Outlaw would be gone, maybe not…but now he definitely is.

And with him went my heart. Not that he was such a favorite player…Roy and Aldridge still have that shared distinction, and have since they were brought in on draft day. It is more what he symbolized to me. The Blazer team that I have grown to love every component of is starting to disintegrate.

Fernandez is rumored to be unhappy about playing time. Webster played all of five minutes the other night. The starting line-up has Miller and Camby in it. Rumors have floated that Aldridge might be shipped out in a sign and trade for Chris Bosh (in the unlikely event Bosh agreed to this...maybe). The pre-season pursuit of Hedo Turkoglu demonstrated the Blazers are not averse to unloading Batum or Webster...or both.

This is still an exceptional team that, if it avoids further injury and manages to make reasonable and natural improvements in the players they have will be a threat to win the title in any given season for a decade to come.

And I will still be enjoying the ride. I just will not be doing it at the game. I will watch when they are on TNT, ESPN, or the local NBC affiliate. But I chose not to renew my season tickets.

It was not because they are not trying to win. The acquisition of Camby is demonstrable evidence to the contrary. It is not because I do not enjoy the games.

It is strictly because the exchange of Outlaw for Camby signifies a shift in thinking from “lets let our core develop together” to “let’s ship out a guy who has been a core player and key contributor out for a short-term fix”.

My interest in watching imported “veterans” is not high enough to justify paying rising ticket prices, outrageous concession prices, invest time, energy and fuel to see a team I am markedly less involved in emotionally. That, in a nutshell, is why seeing the Blazers improve led me to decide not to renew my season tickets.
I should emphasize that I hope I am a minority. I hope the Blazers sell out every game for decades to come, that their string of Championships spans past the Roy/Aldride/batum glory years into the years my children play on the team.
But every fan has to enjoy a team in their own way. For me, part of that way involves watching players that are homegrown. What is it for you?