NBA.com's Fran Blinebury has it right: Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge should be one of the reserve selections for the Western Conference All-Star team.
Will the coaches agree when their picks are revealed on Thursday?
I sure hope so. Few players in the NBA this season have had the type of impact Aldridge has had on the Blazers so far. And, frankly, he deserved to be on the team last season, for the same reason.
Take away Aldridge, and this Portland team is not sitting at 13-10 and looking like a potential playoff team. Heck, without him, the Blazers probably aren't even above .500 at this point.
Blinebury agrees with me on this. He's got Aldridge, Minnesota forward Kevin Love and Utah's Paul Millsap earning spots on the team, with San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and the Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol missing out.
And let's face it, the only reason Duncan, Nowitzki and Gasol would make it this season, anyway, is on popularity. Aldridge, Love and Millsap are far more deserving right now, as their individual performances and the impacts they have on their teams clearly illustrates.
In the case of Aldridge, you can look at his per-game averages of 22.8 points and 8.7 rebounds and stop there, if you want. But the stats alone don't do Portland's star power forward enough justice. His outside shot is a thing of beauty these days, as he's continued to extend his range, getting far more than close-up looks at the basket. And yet he's still shooting better than 50 percent from the floor this season (50.6, to be exact) and is also hitting 76.6 percent from the foul line.
But that smooth outside shot has been huge for the Blazers, helping pull defenders out of the middle, opening things up for Portland. Aldridge often draws double teams, too, and when he does, he's pretty good at finding the open teammate, as evidenced by his 2.7-assists-per-game average.
So, the question now is, will the coaches make the right choice and put Aldridge on the West's All-Star team this year, after giving him the snub last season? Or will they stick with the popularity-contest mentality?
There are already four players from Los Angeles on the Western Conference team, but the squad needs one more L.A. -- LaMarcus Aldridge.
2012 NBA All-Star Starters
F -- Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
F -- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
C -- Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
G -- Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
G -- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
F -- Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
F -- LeBron James, Miami Heat
C -- Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
G -- Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
G -- Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat