Why LaMarcus Aldridge Deserves to Start the 2014 All-Star Game

Joshua J Vannuccini@@jjvannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 24, 2014

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, left, works the ball against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Don Ryan/Associated Press

The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 All-Star Game on Thursday, but one name was notably absent: LaMarcus Aldridge.

Kevin Love and Blake Griffin were both announced as the starting big men for the Western Conference, joined by Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Curry and Love will both start for the first time, but Aldridge should be joining them.

So far this season, Aldridge is averaging career-high numbers of 24.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He's also dishing out a career-high 2.9 assists while committing just 1.7 turnovers per contest. 

Forcing the offense through Aldridge has worked wonders for the Portland Trail Blazers. Head coach Terry Stotts was also an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, and the team achieved success with a similar game plan using Dirk Nowitzki.

As such, Portland currently holds the third-best record in the Western Conference at 32-11. Here's where it gets tricky.

Voting for the All-Star starters has long been in the hands of the fans. They have every right to vote for who they want to see start the All-Star Game, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right call. There will always be a case of someone voted in without merit, as seen with Kobe Bryant this season or Jeremy Lin ahead of the likes of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in terms of total votes.

Bryant may not even play due to injury, but fans voted him a starter nonetheless. Harden and Westbrook (while injured) are both superior talents compared to Lin, but the support from fans leads to a lopsided voting tally.

The same goes for Aldridge's omission.

The Los Angeles Clippers hold a 30-15 record, just narrowly ahead of the Houston Rockets for the fourth-best record in the West. Griffin is leading the team in Chris Paul's absence (shoulder) and is unquestionably deserving of an All-Star selection.

His 22.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game this season have kept the Clippers afloat, and his highlight reel makes him a clear fan favorite. Griffin has been spectacular in his own right, both in the regular season and in past All-Star appearances, thus the selection cannot be condemned. 

But Aldridge's superior numbers and the Blazers' better record should give him the edge for the starting lineup.

Wins (32)24.912.148.51.7
Losses (11)24.210.345.51.9

Aldridge is more deserving than Griffin based on his individual and team success this season. He's fifth in the league in both scoring and rebounding and is tied with Griffin for fifth in total double-doubles (27), per ESPN.com.

The Blazers' aforementioned 32-11 record is also the fourth-best in the league, one game ahead of the defending-champion Miami Heat. Portland isn't going to win every game, but it's been no fault of Aldridge's when the team hasn't. Below are his averages in both wins and losses:

As you can see, his play rarely deviates based on the final outcome of a game. The Blazers fail when the team struggles, but Aldridge has remained a reliable option to keep his team chugging along.

Griffin has done the same, with the Clippers going 6-3 without Paul, but he isn't the clear-cut leader of the team.

L. Aldridge24.711.62.947.7
B. Griffin22.710.03.552.6
K. Love25.

Aldridge is the unquestioned head of this Portland squad and leads by example. That isn't to say Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews aren't skilled players, but Aldridge is doing more with less for the Blazers compared to Griffin's cast of role players in Los Angeles.

The eighth-year forward has consistently proven he's a worthy candidate, but hasn't received the attention he deserves. Despite his monster averages in January of 28.0 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, Aldridge will remain a reserve.

Choosing between Love, Aldridge and Griffin is incredibly difficult, given that the three players are all putting up similar numbers: 

However, between Aldridge's superior per-game numbers and the Blazers' better record, it's clear that he deserves the starting nod over Griffin.

The only real argument to support Griffin over Aldridge is that his style of play is better suited for the lackadaisical defense of the All-Star Game. Again, it all comes down to what the fans expect and what the fans want to see.

It's just shameful Aldridge doesn't fit the choice particulars. 


2014 NBA All-Star Game voting results courtesy of Inside Hoops.