LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Al Horford: Why Aldridge Is a Better Long-Term Investment

David SpohnCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2011

The 6'11" frame and the exceptionally long arms enable Aldridge to get off his proficient jump shot at will.
The 6'11" frame and the exceptionally long arms enable Aldridge to get off his proficient jump shot at will.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo.

Each is the subject of modern debates of the hypothetical question 'Who is better?' The NBA has a number of rivalries that are either well established or are poised to develop over the next decade. Perhaps more than any other sport, the NBA has more individual rivalries due in large part to the nature of the game of basketball, a sport in which players battle prominently in a one-on-one scenario.

While each of the eight players listed above are largely considered among the very best in the league, there are other interesting debates that receive far less attention circling the league presently.

As far as young, standout power forwards go, Al Horford's and LaMarcus Aldridge's respective names belong atop the list. Neither plays in large markets, neither receives the deserved recognition that his consistent play warrants, neither is regarded among the elite big men in the league by public perception.

That needs to change.

The 2010-11 season has been a banner year for both young men. In February, Horford earned his second All-Star nomination, and he has been a key cog in Atlanta's 38-28 record. In each of his four seasons, Horford has seen a steady increase in blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and points.

Horford has been asked to play a foreign position for the team (center) and has still produced at a very high level for the Hawks. The Hawks, a franchise that struggled mightily for the better part of a decade, have enjoyed trips to the playoffs every year Horford has been a member of the franchise.

When Brandon Roy was hobbled by recurring knee issues throughout the first half of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers looked to fifth year forward LaMarcus Aldridge as someone who could aid in contributing in his absence.

As a result, Aldridge has seen a major spike in his production this year. His scoring has boosted to 22.3 a contest, his rebounding is up to a career high 8.7 and, astoundingly, is No. 2 in the league in minutes played, a freakish achievement for a power forward. 

In February, LaMarcus was snubbed from earning his first All-Star berth despite his gaudy statistics, prompting LeBron James to declare it the 'biggest snub in All-Star history.'

While both Aldridge and Horford are standouts, the question begs: 'Who is better?'

I love Horford. He is a blue collar, low maintenance banger who gets every ounce out of his abilities and continues to improve every year. He is skilled offensively, knows his limitations and brings his hard hat defensively every night in defending both the power forward and center positions for his Atlanta Hawks. He's a terrific teammate to boot.

But Aldridge, all of 25 years of age, is already considered one of the finest post players in the entire league. I hate the big market/small market dynamic that has become so vogue these days, but it bares repeating.

If LaMarcus played in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, he would've made the All-Star team, and his name would be mentioned along the likes of Amare, Bosh, Griffin and Love as the premier power forward in the league.

Aldridge has laced it up for a Portland organization which has dealt with a great deal of roster turnover, due to an abnormally high amount of ailments this season and a couple of high profile trades.

Despite all the instability, Aldridge has been the rock for a franchise that has delivered four consecutive winning seasons and headed towards their third straight playoff appearance.

LaMarcus inked a lucrative contract extension last summer, and rather than resting on his laurels, has lived up to the pay increase with a very impressive season.

Neither Horford nor Aldridge has had extensive playoff experience, but Aldridge's career playoff performance far exceeds that of Horford.

In 12 career playoff games, LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 19.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. In 27 career playoff contests, Al Horford has averaged 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. 

Going forward, both young men will continue to be in the conversation for All-Star recognition and be major producers for their respective franchises for many, many years.

But if I'm starting a team, I'm taking the 6'11" Aldridge. A player whom you can run your offense through, who runs the floor like a deer, who scores effortlessly and efficiently both in the post and from mid-range.

The league will find out in the coming years how gifted he truly is.