Yahoo! Sports' Ball Don't Lie previews the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers, projecting 31 wins. Dan Devine writes on Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
After a season that saw him earn his first All-Star nod (as a reserve, but still) and selection to the All-NBA Third Team, the former No. 2 overall draft pick made some waves when, in response to a radio host's leading question, he said he believes he's the best power forward in the NBA. Ten percent of respondents in the NBA's annual general manager survey agreed, which, by my math means -- carry the one, divide by ... 90 percent of the folks who run NBA teams don't. (Hey, it's not their fault Kevin Love, LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki exist.)
If our man's of a mind to do some convincin', this sure looks like his chance to do it. For starters, Love and Nowitzki will be spending the first few weeks of this season getting healthy, and probably the first few weeks after that rounding back into shape, so a strong start that gets the Blazers out of the gate quickly could earn plenty of positive attention. Beyond that, though, while Portland features a couple of neat complimentary pieces (re-signed small forward Nicolas Batum and two-guard Wesley Matthews) and rookie point guard Damian Lillard's looks promising, it seems glaringly obvious theonly chance the Blazers have of competing for a playoff berth out West is Aldridge putting together an MVP-caliber season. The career-best field-goal percentage and per-36 scoring average have to go up. The rebounding -- long the major knock on Aldridge's game, because folks have a hard time understanding how a 6-foot-11, 240-pound guy with his athleticism is only clearing 13 percent of available rebounds for his career -- has to go up. (Especially with no Marcus Camby around to clean the glass.) Hell, everything has to go up.
On the offensive end, there's no question that Aldridge has the talent to become the 25-a-night kind of guy who carries a team. He's a potent scorer from midrange, using his high release and soft touch to stretch defenders and hit better than 40 percent of his attempts from beyond 10 feet out last year. But he takes a lot of jumpers -- more than nine per game last year, according to Hoopdata's shot location statistics -- which is a bummer, because Aldridge is also one of the league's most effective low-block scorers, averaging 0.96 points per possession (PPP) on post-ups last season (18th-best in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports Technology).
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter