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Lowe: Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge Ranked No. 11 In NBA

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Update: On Twitter, Aldridge responds to his ranking: "That's just motivation to keep working!" Zach Lowe of SI.com ranks Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge as the No. 11 player in his Top 100 list. ---------------------------- This ranking may seem high until you start looking at the big men below him and realize that Aldridge really is the finest two-way player among them — and that he’s bound to get even better given his age. Last season, Aldridge took on a larger burden on offense and managed to increase his efficiency — a rare double, especially when you consider just how much more efficient he became. He redistributed his shot attempts, averaging 10 shots per game from within 10 feet, up from just 6.5 such shots the previous season, according to Hoopdata. He earned more foul shots and drew more double teams as a result. He morphed from a jump-shooting, outside-in big man into an inside-out post-up force, capable of scoring one-on-one and serving as the kind of player around which a team can build an above-average offense. You can’t say that about Garnett anymore, which is why KG ranks a few spots lower here, despite playing a brand of defense Aldridge can’t yet match. But Aldridge is getting there defensively. He’s solid in the post and in one-on-one situations, and he has emerged as one of the league’s better big men at tracking guards on pick-and-roll plays. He’s not on the level of Garnett, Tyson Chandler or Andrew Bogut yet — he doesn’t protect the rim or rebound as well as those guys — but he has become a well-rounded defender, on the level of a guy like Al Horford. ---------------------------- Aldridge ranks above Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (No. 13), Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (No. 14), Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett (No. 17), New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire (No. 19), Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (No. 21), Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (No. 22) and San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (No. 23). Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki and Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol both appear to be members of the yet-to-be-revealed Top 10. Also, somehow I missed this: Blazers forward Gerald Wallace was ranked No. 39 last week. ---------------------------- Crash’s numbers declined across the board last season. Now that he’s 29, with a history of diving around the court and continually flashing his athleticism, it’s fair to wonder if that slippage is the first small step in a larger drop-off. Let’s hope not, because Wallace is the kind "B+" player on both ends — and "A" to "A-" on defense when at his best — who can really help a team. The Blazers and Bobcats were better on both sides when Wallace was on the court, and his ability to swing between both forward positions is helpful for lineup building. ---------------------------- -- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter
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