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LMA: 2011 All-Star?

Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer joined Garnett out East. So with two spots open it seems like it should be that much easier for LaMarcus Aldridge to make his first Western Conference All-Star appearance in 2011. Just how close is he?

 

NBA All-Star Rosters have 15 players from each conference. In 2010, depending how you count them, seven of the Western Conference All-Stars were Forwards, and seven were Guards, with Chris Kaman off the bench as the token big dumb white guy.

 

Western Conference All-Star Forwards 2006-2011

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

[Duncan]

Duncan

Duncan

Duncan

Duncan

Duncan

[Nowitzki]

Nowitzki

Nowitzki

Nowitzki

Nowitzki

Nowitzki

--

Stoudemire

Stoudemire

Stoudemire

Stoudemire

--

[Carmello]

Carmello

(injury)

Carmello

Carmello

--

[Durant]

Durant

--

--

--

--

?

Z-Bo

--

--

--

--

[Gasol]

P. Gasol

P. Gasol

--

--

P. Gasol

--

--

--

Boozer

--

--

?

--

D. West

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Garnett

Garnett

?

--

--

--

Marion

Marion

--

--

--

--

--

T-Mac

 

[Note: Stoudemire, Duncan and Gasol are frequently listed as Centers]

 

Barring injury or a trade sending Carmello Anthony to the East, it's still safe to pencil in Duncan, Nowitzki, Durant, Gasol and Carmello, right up front. That's five. Who else got close in the voting?

2010 All Star Voting: Final Tallies

Western Conference Forwards: Carmelo Anthony (Den) 2,137,560; Tim Duncan (SA) 1,156,696; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 1,093,005; Pau Gasol (LAL) 1,051,784; Kevin Durant (OKC) 870,567; Trevor Ariza (Hou) 645,937; Luis Scola (Hou) 580,243; Ron Artest (LAL) 368,281; Shawn Marion (Dal) 363,516; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 309,497.

Non-all-star forwards Scola, Artest and Ariza all received more votes than the Blazers' Aldridge. For comparison, B-Roy also finished 10th in the West at his position, receiving a slightly more respectable 422,290 votes among Guards. The obvious deduction? It is unlikely a player from Portland will be voted in--except perhaps for a dominant Greg Oden. Unless things improve for Roy, Portland players will get its players in at the behest of the coaches. And unless the Blazers are leading the West, it will be difficult for the coaches to seed two players from Portand.

Having skipped a year, Phil Jackson is again eligible to coach the All-Star game in 2011. If the Blazers are leading at the end of all-star voting, Nate will coach the West. Then, besides whoever the coaches select, the Blazers' coach might feel generous and fill an optional slot with another Blazer or two. Still, Sarge being Sarge, and with LaMarcus skipping Worlds, his play will need to be good enough to justify his selection.

The make-up of All-star rosters can shift. For information, here are the tallies for Centers.

2010 All-Star Voting for Western Conference Centers: Amar'e Stoudemire (Pho) 1,824,093; Andrew Bynum (LAL) 981,355; Nene (Den) 364,543; Marc Gasol (Mem) 353,155; Antonio McDyess (SA) 328,717; Al Jefferson (Min) 252,777; Greg Oden (Por) 225,245; Marcus Camby (LAC) 188,240; Emeka Okafor (NO) 182,626; Andris Biedrins (GS) 167,481.

 

Yao is back, and a billion Chinese can't be wrong. Otherwise, it might seem that Bynum, if healthy, would be a shoe-in at Center. But Duncan and even Gasol might be listed at center. And Greg Oden, who finished 7th(!) while playing a shortened 2010 season, could beast his way toward the top.

 

There might be as many as three centers selected this year for the West. If only two are selected, depending how you count the C/Fs like Duncan, that leaves leaves maybe 6 or 7 slots for forwards.That means roughly 1-3 slots for forwards that we haven't already pencilled in.

 

David Lee moved to the West. Expected to be a lynchpin in Golden State's uptempo game, Lee could easily take away a big man slot. And if Zach Randolph continues to fill up the stat sheet, he could stay on top for another year. If Aldridge wants that all-star nod, he must improve. Not only must he improve, he's got to improve dramatically.

 

Several factors impact LMA's chances at becoming an all-star in Portland. This is a small market. That effects not only potential votes, but perception. Making visibility even more of a problem, Portland is on the West Coast. Fans in the East are likely to skip games that start at 10 or 10:30 EST. And we don't play Sunday morning or afternoon games this season. To earn that roster spot, LMA will have to change perceptions. Fans and coaches out East have less opportunity and reason to watch Blazer games; that means even less opportunities to change those perceptions. LaMarcus has got to make a real splash.

Portland's slow pace means less shots to go around. With the return of Greg Oden, a healthy B-Roy, and a surging Nic Batum, Aldridge should see less usage in the offense, translating to a lower points per game average. With Oden, Camby, and Joel gobbling up misses, LMA will also find it difficult to significantly increase his rebound numbers--especially when he's leaking out on the break.

Portland has a number of solid young players. Oden is back and and Nic Batum has received strong mention among NBA SFs. Being one of many can confound voting among fans and among the coaches. But if Aldridge can maintain the #2 spot in the offense on a fiery young team, that might instead tend to showcase him.

LMA will need to improve his play to continue to stand out in this talented crowd. I doubt that improvement will come from improved shooting. With the muscle he has added, I hope the improvement he shows will be down on the block.

Selection is often considered a numbers game. So here are the numbers.

Forwards: 2009-'10 Season and Career averages (per game)

 

2010 Pts

Rbs

Asts

Avg Pts

Avg Rbs

Avg Asts

Aldridge

17.9

8.0

2.1

16.0

7.1

1.6

Anthony

28.2

6.6

3.2

24.7

6.2

3.1

Ariza

14.9

5.6

3.8

8.4

4.1

2.7

Artest

11.0

4.3

3.0

15.5

5.0

3.2

Batum

10.1

3.8

1.2

6.9

3.1

1.0

C. Butler

16.3

6.2

2.1

16.6

6.0

2.9

Duncan

25.0

7.7

2.7

22.9

8.5

2.7

Durant

30.1

7.6

2.8

25.3

6.2

2.7

Pau Gasol

18.3

11.3

3.4

18.8

9.0

3.2

Rudy Gay

19.6

5.9

1.9

17.4

5.5

1.7

Jeff Green

15.1

6.0

1.6

14.0

5.8

1.7

Jefferson

17.1

9.3

1.8

15.3

8.7

1.2

Harrington

17.7

5.6

1.5

14.1

5.8

1.8

C. Landry

16.8

5.8

0.8

12.2

5.3

0.7

D. Lee

20.2

11.7

3.6

13.0

9.6

1.9

K. Love

14.0

7.2

2.3

12.3

6.3

1.6

S. Marion

16.2

8.6

2.1

13.1

7.9

1.6

K. Martin

11.5

9.4

1.9

13.9

7.3

2.1

Nowitzki

25.0

7.7

2.7

22.9

8.5

2.7

Odom

10.8

9.8

3.3

14.6

8.9

4.1

Okafur

10.4

9.0

0.7

--

--

--

M. Okur

13.5

7.1

1.6

13.9

7.2

1.7

Randolph

20.8

11.7

1.8

17.3

8.8

1.7

Scola

16.2

8.6

2.1

13.1

7.9

1.6

Thompson

12.5

8.5

1.7

11.8

7.9

1.4

D. West

19.0

7.5

3.0

16.0

7.2

11.9

Williams

15.2

4.6

2.8

--

--

--

 

Blake Griffon and Tiago Splitter project as good rookie big men out West, but they would need a few phenomenal months to make the 2011 all-star team. Other notable Western Conference rookie forwards include Demarcus Cousins, Epke Udoh, and Al Farouq Aminu.

 

LMA's numbers are solid. We can parse numbers all day, but in the end I think what we'll prove is that solid is not good enough for a player looking to surface out of a still strong pool of candidates. A look at the numbers does tell you, that except for Z-Bo, all-star forwards involve others in the flow of the offense. So besides scoring in the paint and rebounding, LMA would do well to pass quickly out of the double team, find the open man, and feed the post.

Defense is harder to quantify, but LMA is not considered a defensive standout. With questions about his strength and his ability to hold off wide bodies, he is seen as a questionable post defender. Improvement on the defensive end can only help his case. With his length, and playing along Camby who shares his high center of gravity, LMA might be capable of developing a healthy appetite for rejections.

Speaking of healthy, in 2010 LMA held down the fort, contributing strongly to a 50 win season. He was forced to play out of position most fo the season. And with the Blazers having few other viable offensive options, defenses were able to key on him. So, while some see him as an underachiever--possibly even as having hit his plateau--in many ways, it is impressive that Aldridge was able to keep his numbers steady through last season.

When Camby came to Portland, Aldridge again performed better at his natural PF position. He has good length and long arms, and is fast for a big man. I can only imagine that playing PF alongside a natural post player like Greg Oden will help his efficiency, if not necessarily his net production.

As a quiet assassin, Aldridge's consistent production rarely makes highlight footage. Dependability is nice for Portland's fans and coaching staff. But if he wants that all-star nod, Aldridge needs to add an element of drama to his game. What Portland fans have been missing is what the media and league fans outside Portland have also wanted to see from him. Something I want to call Heart.

I trust that LaMarcus is playing with effort. But I want to see it. I want to see Aldridge play his heart out. I want to see more than a gifted athlete playing to the potential of his body. I want to see him fight for rebounds. I want to see him wage battle, not only with that sweet midrange game, but down in the paint. I want to see him play with intelligence, hitting Oden when the double comes, like a fish in water. I want it all.

I want LaMarcus Aldridge to prove to me what I wanted to believe all along. That he is an all-star.

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