Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.9 blocks, 23.2 PER
LaMarcus Aldridge has two big legs up on Kevin Love, even after losing the head-to-head battle on Dec. 18. It's worth noting, though, that Aldridge still posted 15 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in the loss.
The first advantage isn't entirely due to Aldridge and Love's play, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless.
While the Minnesota Timberwolves sit outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with a 13-13 record, Aldridge has guided Rip City near the very top of the standings. Portland boasts a 22-5 record, one that leaves them with the No. 2 seed in the tougher conference.
There's also that little thing called defense.
Well, it really isn't so little, seeing as it's literally half the battle during any NBA game. And, as they say, defense wins championships.
Neither Love nor Aldridge is a standout defender, but two areas push the latter well ahead of the former. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), Aldridge allows 0.33 and 0.19 fewer points per possession against roll men in pick-and-roll sets and spot-up shooters, respectively. He also gives up 0.06 fewer overall.
That might not seem like a huge difference, but it is when you consider the two power forwards' roles in their systems.
While the 'Wolves hide Love on a regular basis—if you look carefully, you might find him in a hopeless place—the Blazers have actively built their system around Aldridge. They force him and Robin Lopez into one-on-one matchups, assuming they can hold their own while the focus of the remaining three players shifts to the perimeter.
It's a close matchup between the NBA's two uber-elite 4s, but the two-way play of Aldridge allows him to emerge as the slight favorite. At least right now.