The All-Star starters have been selected, meaning we’re getting closer and closer to getting our answer to the most pressing question of the first half of the Blazers’ season: Does LaMarcus Aldridge get the invite to the All-Star Game? As part of their ongoing weekly debate for ESPN.com, analysts Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard take on whether or not LA should be one of the final All-Star selections. Here’s the link to the piece (ESPN Insiders only), and I’ll give you a quick rundown on their individual takes on the issue.
Starting with Bucher:
RB: It’s hard for me to leave K-Love off my list of five, too, but the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ record just makes it too hard to justify. And as miraculous as the Portland Trail Blazers have been in light of all their setbacks and as big a part in that as (LaMarcus) Aldridge has had, he’s not my fifth, either. Lamar Odom is.
Broussard is pro LaMarcus:
CB: While Lamar’s having a very good year, I don’t see any way on earth you take him ahead of Aldridge. Aldridge outscores Odom 21.3 points per game to 15.6 ppg, while falling behind only slightly in rebounds (9.6 per game for LO; 8.8 for LA). But over the past month and a half, Aldridge has been an absolute beast. Since Brandon Roy’s last game on Dec. 15, Aldridge has averaged 26.4 points and 10.1 rebounds to lead the Blazers to a 12-7 record and keep them alive in the Western Conference playoff race. Aldridge has proven he can do what Lamar has never been able to do — carry a team.
Bucher’s case against LA tends more towards a case for Lamar Odom:
RB: Odom has been anything but a complementary player this season. He has been the Lakers’ most complete player and the No. 1 reason they have the second-best record in the Western Conference. After Kobe Bryant, Odom is the Los Angeles Lakers ‘ most deserving All-Star.
Bucher’s final thoughts on LaMarcus vs. Lamar:
RB: I’m thrilled to see Aldridge make good on his potential, especially with his mom ill, and I’ve long said he’s Portland’s most talented player. But you’re overreaching in suggesting he’s that team’s emotional leader or somehow the anchor to how they play.
The curious part for me is that McMillan has Odom as an All-Star but doesn’t see Aldridge as one without a strong last-minute run. In fact, I’ve yet to hear anyone in the league give LA an endorsement anywhere close to what LO has received.
And, for what it’s worth, LO and LA have played each other this season, starting PF versus starting PF. LO had 21 points and 12 rebounds in a Lakers’ romp. Aldridge: eight points, three rebounds.
Broussard’s final thoughts are significantly more on the side of LaMarcus:
CB: Don’t forget, as a sixth man, Odom is facing far more second-stringers than Aldridge is. Aldridge isn’t just putting up gaudy stats, he’s winning, too. He’s carrying an injury-plagued, emotionally-drained franchise with absolutely outstanding play. You know as well as I do that if Odom was called upon to carry a club like Aldridge is, he couldn’t.
You just can’t put him (Odom) on this year’s All-Star team, even if he is playing “All-Star-caliber” ball. Not only is he behind Durant, Carmelo, Dirk, Blake and Aldridge (not to mention Pau and Duncan), but I’d also take Love, Zach Randolph and David West ahead of Odom.
L.O.’s consistency this season stands out mainly because he’s been so exasperatingly inconsistent throughout his career, so I’d say you may be grading him on a curve.
LaMarcus gets another chance to prove himself against a likely All-Star reserve on Tuesday when he goes up against the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs and perennial MVP candidate Tim Duncan.