Oct 16, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) is defended by Utah Jazz power forward Andris Biedrins (11) during the second half of their NBA basketball game at EnergySolutions Arena. The Portland Trail Blazers won 99-92. Mandatory Credit: Jim Urquhart-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN Ranks Aldridge 17th-best NBA Player

Two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge has been named the NBA’s 17th-best player for the upcoming season by ESPN’s forecast panel.

This puts him above fellow power forwards Chris Bosh (#24), Dirk Nowitzki (#26) and Pau Gasol (#29), and ahead of All-NBA players Dwyane Wade (#18) and Kobe Bryant (#25).

Before either the champagne is popped or people wonder whether the folks at ESPN have been downing crazy pills, remember: these rankings are NOT for a players’ performance during the last season, but a prediction of how they WILL play this upcoming season.

It should also be noted that it places him behind Tim Duncan (#16), who at 36 had a bounce-back year but didn’t produce to Adridge’s levels and shouldn’t take a step forward this season at his age. He’s also behind Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Marc Gasol.

Ranking the NBA from top to bottom is a difficult task. There’s no amount of analysis, number-crunching, and care that could be put into such an endeavor that wouldn’t likely upset some handful of fans.

What it might show more than anything else is that Aldridge has slowly arrived on the national stage, and is becoming a household name for fans who couldn’t care less about the Blazers and wouldn’t be able to name anyone on the team besides LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard (with apologies to Nicolas Batum).

Does recognition really mean anything? Maybe, from a marketing standpoint, which could in some small way effect whether or not a player decides to come to Portland or, say, Toronto. Right, Hedo Turkoglu?

And is there any small chance that the “star calls” (or non-calls) that allow LeBron James to take some extra steps before making his move to the basket would be more likely for a player if they are better known nationally? And could this ESPN ranking contribute to that?

I’m grasping at straws, but… yes. In very small ways, things like this are what you would expect to see from someone who is becoming more of a household name (his last few seasons were, statistically speaking, pretty similar, but he still jumped a few spots). And yes, if you add all of those things up, it could mean a call here or there, and, less realistically, be the tiniest of factors in a free agent’s decision to choose Portland.

But for now, let’s just say it: HEY EVERYONE! LAMARCUS IS BETTER THAN KOBE!!!

…feels good, doesn’t it?

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