In response to a recent post explaining why I elected not to renew my season tickets largely due to the trade of Travis Outlaw, I was asked what I thought of the LaMarcus Aldridge for Chris Bosh trade rumors .
In some respects it is an intriguing question, and one that is difficult for me to be objective about. I freely admit to being a huge LaMarcus Aldridge mark. I am tired of the oft-cited and remarkably inept criticisms that Aldridge is "soft"; that his post-up game is not good enough; that he relies too much on his jump shot; that his defense is inadequate, and his rebounding borderline incompetent.
I also recognize the skill Bosh brings to the table. There is a lot to compare in their games.
Both players have silky smooth mid-range jumpers. Inside his range, I actually think Bosh is the superior shooter, though that is merely anecdotal evidence. Due to his playing in Toronto, I have only ever seen a handful of his games, and as a result I must base most of my opinion on statistics, which often lie.
Based on statistics, the team of Tom Chambers, Xavier McDaniel, and Dale Ellis was awesome, when in truth they scored a lot but gave up a lot of points too. Their scoring numbers say nothing about their individual or team defense, their cohesiveness, or those little things teammates do to improve each other.
So I must base my analysis of Bosh on the games I have seen live in Portland, for the most part.
Bosh is a genuine pleasure to watch in warm-ups. His jumper is silky smooth and sometimes you wonder if he will ever even hit the rim. Shot after shot brings that delicious snap of the net as the ball comes through on the precise trajectory to demonstrate the purity of a perfect shot.
Step-back, side-shuffle, face-up. Shot after shot after shot goes swish, swish, swish. His movement is crisp, his motions sure and effortless. He is a skilled player indeed, and this does not change when the game starts.
If a defender gives him the slightest space, he rises up and two points go up on the board for the Raptors. Crowd him, and he puts the ball on the floor and gets inside. I have rarely seen him do back-to-the-basket post-up moves, but that does not say he is not a post player. I actually cannot honestly answer that question due to the paucity of coverage the Raptors get in Portland. I can say I have repeatedly seen him face up his man, get to the rim, and finish strong.
On defense, Bosh appears to me to be better than average. He is strong enough to avoid getting run down, quick enough to help out when his guards get beat, and is an excellent rebounder. He has a very well-rounded game and would be an instant upgrade to almost any team that acquired him. You can count on two fingers the number of power forwards who are anywhere near his production and skill level.
Aldridge, meanwhile, has slightly better range than Bosh and, while not as high-percentage a shooter, is still very good. He does have a post game which is oft-maligned, and there is some merit to that. Of course, part of the problem with the criticism is it represents a poor analysis of Aldridge's game.
He is still developing his post play, and while it has shown vast improvement in the last couple of years, it is not yet the strength of his game. There are certain defenders against whom Aldridge simply has not yet been able to develop an effective move. He recognizes this, and instead of continuing to put himself in a bad match-up, he drifts out to the perimeter where he has the advantage.
Not continuing to force up tough, contested shots in bad situations is an intelligent basketball play. Unfortunately, too many fans give the knee-jerk "Aldridge is soft" answer. I have a suggestion to those fans: Stick a sock in it and watch his game.
Aldridge plays down low against the big guys, and while his rebounding numbers are not huge, take a look at the timing and manner of them. Game after game I watch him come away with key rebounds when seven, eight, maybe nine guys are clustered inside the key trying to get the board, and somehow Aldridge rips down what I like to call "man-boards".
He is not afraid to match up with players like Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and so forth night after night. He works hard, stays in the team concept, and does his job.
I genuinely believe part of the reason his rebound numbers are "low" is due to the guys next to him. Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden and Marcus Camby are all superior rebounders. An example would come from the Portland-Washington game of March 19, 2010.
There were precisely 100 available non-free-throw rebounds available. Camby came away with 19 of those, a staggering number that means nearly one of five times there was a ball caroming off the rim, Camby snagged it.
Assuming teams will garner approximately one half of the available rebounds and each player will contribute, that means the remaining nine players have roughly thirty rebounds to share among themselves. Guards are generally good for two to three apiece and the Blazers run four. Forwards should get roughly four to five apiece in the Portland system, and the Blazers essentially have three forwards other than Aldridge, so there are roughly forty-nine of the rebounds available accounted for. That is without Aldridge.
Naturally, part of the statistical analysis is average, and on any given night a guy who averages five boards might go without, while a guy who averages two might get seven.
Aldridge checks in at a fairly steady seven to eight a night. He seldom has less, but often has more, such as the dozen he tallied against the Wizards.
Even more notably, when the Blazers were starting Methuselah...err, Juwan Howard...at center, or even rookie Jeff "Li'l Bit" Pendergraph, Aldridge was dialing up double-digit boards seemingly every night.
In short, his deflated rebound numbers are partially a product of the players he plays with.
As Aldridge's biggest defender, I also think his defense is unfairly maligned. I am not nervous when he gets caught on the perimeter against smaller, quicker players because he is quick enough, agile enough, and long enough to contest their shots. Of course, sometimes they score because that is what the Chris Pauls and Tony Parkers of the NBA world do—they score against bad defense, average defense, and good defense.
Aldridge is at his best coming off his man to contest a shot, but he is also a decent man-to-man defender. He is often accused of lacking intensity, and this is accurate. He also likes to slap at the ball low a bit much for my liking, but he also pokes away a lot of balls.
He is definitely not an All-NBA defender, but he is improving every year.
Off the court, there is little to complain about from either player. In many ways, Bosh has certain advantages in that regard. Chris Bosh has a great sense of humor , though it is flawed—he seems to find Will Ferrell funny despite stuff like Semi-Pro.