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Is LaMarcus Aldridge One of the Ten Greatest Blazers?

Well, let's go through the list. The obvious players are in the top five, and after that there's no way LaMarcus ranks in the top... hey, wait a minute.

Is this guy reaching some rarified Portland air? Credit
Is this guy reaching some rarified Portland air? Credit
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

As we've spent the Summer discussing the status of our own LaMarcus Aldridge, one question has lingered in the back of my head. It nags at me for a bit, then I let it go, only to have it float back into my consciousness again like an annoying gnat. But perhaps I was simply over-thinking the topic. So I finally asked Dave last night:

Based on his overall career, is LaMarcus Aldridge one of the ten greatest Blazers in franchise history?

To my surprise, I think he was stumped too. He had a lot of thoughts, but no verdict. So let's hand the question over to you.

How do we define "Greatest"?

Honestly, we can't. Everyone defines "greatness" differently. Who's greater, Clyde Drexler or Bill Walton? They're both Hall of Famers, and on the list of the 50 greatest players. Bill would be jealous of Clyde's lifetime stats. But Clyde would be jealous of Bill's championship, if he hadn't won one elsewhere. Bill is the only Blazer to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. But he wasn't competing against Michael Jordan, to whom Clyde came in second.

So who's greater? A long, consistent stretch high level play, or a short stretch of elite greatness that brought a title? That's up to you. Levels of greatness are never absolute. Especially when you get into the grey areas in between.

First, who are the top five Blazers?

The "Top 5 Greatest Blazers" list is generally considered stable, with some minor arguing. In no particular order, they are:

Bill Walton
Clyde Drexler
Terry Porter
Maurice Lucas
Geoff Petrie

There will inevitably be disagreement from there, typically about Geoff, but it's a safe bet these players will be on the majority of lists from fans who are familiar with the full team history.

Who are the next five Blazers?

Well, that's where it gets interesting. In 2010, the Oregonian's Jason Quick released his list of the Top 40 Blazers in team history. Three years ago, he ranked Aldridge #28. The list isn't gospel, but it's an interesting springboard when thinking about the next five players. Here are the likely players competing for the 6-10 spots, with category leaders bolded:

LaMarcus Aldridge (PF)

Averages: 18.3 points, 49.3% FG, 7.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks
Career: 7 seasons, 9,298 points, 3,943 rebounds, 959 assists
Awards: Two time All-Star, All-NBA Third Team, All-Rookie First Team
Blazer Top 10: Points (7th), Rebounds (6th), Minutes (8th), Free Throws (9th), Blocks (8th), Points Per Game (6th)
Advanced Stats: PER (5th), Win Shares (5th)
Postseason Success: Three first round exits.

Buck Williams (PF)

Averages: 10.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 55% FG, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
Career: 7 seasons, 5,677 points, 4,861 rebounds, 596 assists
Awards: Two time All-Defense First Team, One time All-Defense Second Team.
Blazer Top 10: Minutes (10th), Rebounds (4th), FG% (5th), Rebounds Per Game (7th)
Advanced Stats: True Shooting (3rd), Offensive Rating (6th), Win Shares (6th)
Postseason Success: Two NBA Finals, Three Conference Finals.

Jerome Kersey (SF)

Averages: 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47.6% FG
Career: 11 seasons, 10,067 points, 5,078 rebounds, 1,762 assists, 1,059 steals, 622 blocks
Awards: None.
Blazer Top 10: Points (4th), Minutes (3rd), Free Throws (3rd), Rebounds (2nd), Assists (8th), Steals (3rd), Blocks (5th)
Advanced Stats: Win Shares (4th)
Postseason Success: Two NBA Finals, Three Conference Finals.

Cliff Robinson (SF)

Averages: 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists
Career: 8 seasons, 10,405 points, 3,352 rebounds, 1,350 assists, 696 steals, 726 blocks
Awards: Sixth Man of the Year, One All-Star Game
Blazer Top 10: Points (3rd), Minutes (4th), Field Goals (6th), Free Throws (4th), Rebounds (10th), Steals (6th), Blocks (2nd)
Advanced Stats: Win Shares (9th)
Postseason Success: Two NBA Finals, Three Conference Finals.

Jim Paxson (SG)

Averages: 16.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Career: 9 seasons, 10,003 points, 1,415 rebounds, 2,007 assists, 857 steals
Awards: Two-time All-Star, All-NBA Second Team
Blazer Top 10: Points (5th), Minutes (7th), Field Goals (2nd), Free Throws (6th), Assists (6th), Steals (4th)
Advanced Stats: Win Shares (7th)
Postseason Success: Reached Second Round twice.

Mychal Thompson (PF)

Averages: 16.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Career: 7 seasons, 9,215 points, 4,878 rebounds, 1,848 assists, 504 steals, 768 blocks
Awards: All-NBA Rookie First Team
Blazer Top 10: Minutes (6th), Points (8th), Field Goals (8th), Free Throws (8th), Rebounds (3rd), Assists (7th), Blocks (1st)
Advanced Stats: Win Shares (10th)
Postseason Success: Reached Second Round twice.

Rasheed Wallace (PF)

Averages: 16.8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Career: 8 seasons, 9,119 points, 3,797 rebounds, 1,102 assists, 555 steals, 693 blocks
Awards: Two-time NBA All-Star
Blazer Top 10: Points (9th), PPG (10th), Minutes (5th), Field Goals (9th), Rebounds (7th), Steals (10th), Blocks (3rd)
Advanced Stats: Win Shares (3rd)
Postseason Success: Two Conference Finals

Brandon Roy (SG)

Averages: 19 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists
Career: 5 seasons, 6,107 points, 1,374 rebounds, 1,494 assists, 332 steals,
Awards: Rookie of the Year, Three-Time All-Star, All-NBA Second and Third Team
Blazer Top 10: Points Per Game (5th)
Advanced Stats: PER (4th), Offensive Rating (7th), Win Shares per 48 minutes (9th)
Postseason Success: Three First Round exits.

Other players could be included in the argument, such as Kiki Vandeweghe, Lionel Hollins, and Damon Stoudamire. However, for various reasons (in the case of Kiki and Damon, defense), they will typically fall outside of the top 10 on most lists. Feel free to make the case for any player you'd like!

[Credit: Blazer Franchise Leaders and Aggregate Stats on Basketball-Reference]

So, what did we learn?

Not as much as we'd like. We already knew Jerome Kersey is a Blazer legend and a sure top-10 franchise player despite his lack of awards. For those not around during the 80s, Jim Paxson may be a surprise. He's arguably underrated due to playing in the "lost era", injuries, and losing his job to the meteoric rise of Clyde Drexler. Mychal Thompson was maligned due to not living up to his #1 pick status, but still had a very solid Blazer career.

LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't lead in any categories, but nonetheless matched up very well against most of the players. Match him up against Buck Williams, and he's ahead in various categories, especially raw offensive ones. He competes nicely against Rasheed Wallace, and doesn't get ejected every other night.

We also re-learned something else we already knew: Brandon Roy was in the midst of taking his rightful place in the Top 5 Blazer list when his career was cut short. But if you look at career stats, he really falls behind the other players on the list. Though sad, many players have their career cut short due to injury. Does that prevent Brandon from being a Top 10 Blazer despite his high level of play when healthy?

Do Playoffs Matter?

Buck, Cliff, Jerome and Rasheed have a built-in advantage: They all went into deep playoff runs. Does that bump them to the front of the line? Or does that simply leave the others a victim of circumstance? It's not Aldridge's fault that his best teammates were lost due to injury. And I suspect he'd love to have played with Scottie Pippen, Damon Stoudamire, and Brian Grant.

So, what's the verdict?

I'm leaving the verdict to you. Here are the big questions:

1. As of now, is LaMarcus Aldridge one of the 10 greatest players in franchise history?

2. Based on Aldridge's current averages, here is a rough estimate of his career totals in two years, if he stays healthy and in Portland until the end of his contract:

- 12,000 points (Second all-time behind Drexler)
- 5,240 rebounds (Second all-time behind Drexler)
- 5,000 field goals (Second all-time behind Drexler)
- 700 blocks (Third all-time behind Robinson and Thompson)

In this situation, where would LaMarcus rank in Blazer history?

3. As of now, who are your 6-10 greatest Blazers?

Let's hear what you think!

-- Tim