HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — All this chatter about Blake Griffin and Kevin Love deserving spots on the Western Conference All-Star team has overshadowed two other power forwards playing All-Star caliber basketball on teams with winning records.
Trail Blazers’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge and Hornets’ ace David West have both waged All-Star campaigns without the aid of outsiders, opting for the on-the-court grind that isn’t always appreciated the way it should be. Neither Aldridge nor West is piling up the flashy metrics that Griffin and Love are this season. But shouldn’t there be some weight given for being a major factor on a playoff team?
A fifth-year pro, Aldridge has been forced to carry the Blazers with All-Star guard Brandon Roy sidelined after surgery on both knees. He’s averaging career highs in points (21.1) and rebounds (8.8) while keeping the Blazers afloat (25-21 and 8th in the Western Conference standings) during yet another tumultuous, injury-plagued season. Even Aldridge is playing with a bruised hip. And as more than a few Portland fans have mentioned, Aldridge has more than held his own against both Griffin and Love in head-to-head matchups this season. In fact, he’s been dominant at times against both.
The Blazers are 6-0 against the Clippers and Timberwolves this season and Aldridge has record double doubles in all but two of those games. He had 28 points and eight rebounds to Griffin’s 20 and 18 in a 108-93 defeat of the Clippers last Saturday and fouled out with just four points and five rebounds in a 100-91 win over the Clippers on Dec. 5.
He’s dropped 36 and 10 on Love and the Timberwolves in their first meeting, Dec. 17, worked them for 28-10 on Jan. 7 and pounded them for a career-high 37 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in a 113-102 win over the Timberwolves on Jan. 17.
If head-to-head counts for anything, Aldridge would appear to have the edge over both guys.
The choice between Aldridge and West, however, could prove to be one of the toughest ones the Western Conference coaches (who choose the All-Star reserves) have to make. Do you take a player having an excellent season on a solid, playoff team or do you take a previous All-Star posting solid numbers on one of the league’s top eight teams?
And we’re probably not doing West proper justice. He isn’t just posting solid numbers (19.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and1.1 blocks while shooting 52 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line) on a good team. Those are robust numbers for a team that sits among the top three in the rugged Western Conference.
What West lacks in slick numbers he more than makes up for in clutch work on a fantastic team, and the fact that he’s one of the main cogs for one of the best defensive teams in basketball.
West has played five games against Aldridge, Griffin and Love this season and the Hornets are 3-2 in those games with West averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists in two games (1-1) against the Clippers, 16 points and six rebounds in two games (2-0) against the Blazers. He finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists in a loss to the Timberwolves.
“Grouping the four of those guys together and trying to pick the one or two that are the most deserving of those reserve spots is nearly impossible,” a veteran scout friend said. “It’s hard to ignore what West is doing on a team that not many people expected to compete at the level they have this season. He’s also the only one of the bunch whose numbers are impacted by the fact he’s playing with a point guard in Chris Paul who dictates all of the action on his team. But Aldridge deserves a lot of credit for what he’s doing under those circumstances. Everyone knows that he’s Portland’s only real go-to-guy these days. That’s an entirely different set of pressure than what those other guys are dealing with. I don’t know how you make that choice and do right by all those guys.”
Eh, we don’t have to worry about that. The coaches are the ones charged with the responsibility of making sure the most deserving player makes it to Los Angeles next month for All-Star Weekend.
But while we wait, we’ll put it to our own vote here at the hideout.