If there's one guy that Blazers fans are high on right now, it's LaMarcus Aldridge.
But why do so many others have trouble seeing what we see?
Aldridge put together a phenomenal season last year, yet was snubbed from the All-Star Game in favor of Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and other more established big men in the Western Conference.
It's not hard to come up with reasons why Aldridge should be more widely respected and why he should be a prime candidate to be a first-time All-Star this next season.
As recently as the beginning of last season, that title would have gone to Brandon Roy, former All-Star and unquestioned leader of the Blazers.
Even Greg Oden probably had more face and name recognition than Aldridge, despite playing in so few games over the first four years of his NBA career.
Now, when people think of the Blazers, Aldridge is the one they think of. That's something important to consider when looking at players who are potential All-Stars. Just as Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin are all the most recognizable players on their respective teams, Aldridge has now achieved that status on his.
He isn't the only one taking shots for the Blazers down the stretch. Like any good team, there are others, such as Brandon Roy, who can take over that role at times.
But Aldridge is the one the Blazers go to when they need a basket or when it is time to put the game away. More often than not, he delivers. To be considered an NBA All-Star, that is something that should be part of a player's resume: the ability to come through in the clutch.
No one can accuse Aldridge of not being a winner.
He led his Texas Longhorns team to the Elite Eight as a sophomore in college. He also helped lead the Blazers to at least 48 wins in each of the past three seasons, despite inconsistent production from teammates as a result of frequent injuries and changes to the rotation.
Despite the tough competition in the Western Conference, Aldridge has showed himself to be a winner and someone who makes his team better by being on the court.
Sure, the Blazers haven't advanced past the first round in a really long time. But Aldridge is at least helping them get there, which is more than can be said for a couple of his Western Conference counterparts who made the All-Star team last season instead of him.
In addition, when you look at who they've been losing to, you can't really fault them as much. In the 2008-09 season they lost to a tough Houston Rockets team, who subsequently lost Yao Ming to injury and still nearly beat the eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
In 2009-10, they lost to the Phoenix Suns, who ended up going to the Western Conference finals and giving the Lakers (again) a run for their money before finally succumbing.
And this past season, the Blazers were ousted by the vastly underrated Dallas Mavericks, eventual NBA champions.
When talking about the Portland Trail Blazers over the past few seasons, consistency has almost become synonymous with being injury-free. LaMarcus Aldridge has been an incredibly durable and consistent player throughout his career, something that cannot be underestimated.
The best part of all that, though, has been the way that his durability and toughness only seem to be increasing with time.
He missed or didn't play in 19 games with the Blazers as a rookie back in the 2006-07 season. Since then, he has only missed 12 regular season games and has played in every possible postseason game.
Toughness is a hard thing to quantify in terms of how one player matches up against others, but anyone who has followed the Blazers consistently over the past two or three years will tell you that Aldridge plays noticeably tougher than he used to.
I think Aldridge has always been a tough player and a fierce competitor, but now with his new role as team leader, it has all started to show up a lot more.
He has taken it on himself to be what the team needs him to be, which in this case has meant more posting up and increasing his presence defensively.
As evidence, he got to the free-throw line 5.5 times per game last season, by far his personal best. It's even more impressive when you realize how many of those free throws came on made baskets, meaning he really did make four or five separate trips a game to the line.
Last season, Aldridge's per-game averages were 21.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and one steal. Those numbers all were at or above his previous career highs, and he also played a career-high 39.6 minutes per game.
Those are good numbers, and they compare reasonably well to what Blake Griffin (22.5, 12.1, 3.8, 0.5, 0.8 in 38 minutes per game) and Kevin Love (20.2, 15.2, 2.5, 0.4, 0.6 in 35.8 minutes per game) were able to do last season.
Aldridge's numbers are slightly lower in some places, but one can argue that the only reason for that is because his teammates were more competent, so he didn't have shoulder as much of the offensive burden as the other two. In addition, it makes sense that he would have lower rebounding numbers when playing alongside two great rebounders in Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace for much of the season.
One of the primary reasons people provide for why Blake Griffin belongs in the All-Star Game is the excitement he brings. Every time he steps on the court, people automatically start to expect something amazing, similar to what they feel when LeBron James is playing.
A lot of people don't realize that while Aldridge doesn't generate a lot of his own dunk opportunities, he is very sneaky on offense and a threat to complete an alley-oop play at any moment.
Here's a video showing some of the best of those plays.
Courtesy of dhgate.com
The competition for the forward spots in the Western Conference in the 2012 All-Star Game will be weaker than it has been in quite some time.
Tim Duncan is at the tail end of his career, although the fans may still vote him in based on name recognition. He normally plays as a center in the game, but with the experience that Aldridge has playing the center position, he could more easily take over this spot than either Griffin or Love.
Dirk Nowitzki will likely be in the game once again, as will Kevin Durant. Carmelo Anthony, one of last season's starting forwards in the game, is gone to the Eastern Conference and the New York Knicks, opening up another potential spot in the starting lineup.
It's hard to say if Pau Gasol will make the team again this year, especially given the playoff struggles of last season's Lakers team and the uncertainty surrounding their team going into next season. If the Lakers struggle or are a lower-tier playoff team, it's conceivable that Kobe could be their only All-Star.
All in all, the odds look good for Aldridge finally making his first NBA All-Star Game appearance.