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.