NBA All-Star Game 2013: LaMarcus Aldridge deserves to be here, even if you don't realize it

USA TODAY Sports

LaMarcus Aldridge is as steady as they come. Despite the explosion of his rookie teammate, Damian Lillard, Aldridge is the player who's lifted the Trail Blazers to the cusp of the playoffs.

LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't sure his name would be called when the NBA announced its 2013 All-Star reserves, despite making the team the year before when his Portland Trail Blazers had a far worse record. Even fewer fans outside Portland thought Aldridge would get the call, predicting the likes of Stephen Curry to earn a wild card berth or Marc Gasol to get another summons.

In fact, few notice Aldridge outside of the Pacific Northwest much of the NBA season. Maybe that's because Aldridge is one of the quietest stars in the NBA. Maybe that's because Portland is one of the smallest markets in the NBA, it's on the West Coast so even some basketball die hards on the East Coast rarely see them play. Maybe it's because the Blazers aren't the Lakers, so by definition they can't be mentioned on TV.

That doesn't mean Aldridge isn't there, racking up huge numbers with little to no fanfare. He's regressed slightly this year from last year, when he averaged a sterling 22.7 PER, but he's still among the top workhorses in the game. He's 10th in points per game, 17th in rebounds, 10th in minutes played, 17th in free throws made and attempted and 12th in turnover percentage. That's exactly the kind of guy you want leading your team. He also has almost 1.7 defensive win shares, eclipsing his total from last year.

Of course, Aldridge being an absolute horse is nothing new. The guy is 27, but feels like such an overlooked, known commodity at this point that he could be 32 or 33. Admittedly, he hasn't much improved since he was 23 and put up a 19.1 PER season with a .486 eFG percentage. Right now, he's at 20.2 PER and .482 eFG. But how could you complain about a near 7-footer who's a huge plus offensively and above-average defensively holding steady for four years? This summer, following the Blazers' worst season since Aldridge's ascendance to the elite ranks of NBA power forwards, many began to wonder if he might request out of Portland if things didn't turn around. He was even, however briefly, the subject of trade rumors as late as Christmas. He's under contract until 2015, and, now that he's seen what Damian Lillard can do, he's probably not going anywhere.


So where does that leave Aldridge? He's the same place he's always been. He's the backbone of the only game in town in Portland, an instantly recognizable person on the streets of Rip City with an understated personality to match his game. The dude is so humble and likable, that when he went off earlier this year and straight buried the Mavericks, he didn't mean mug, he didn't flex. He just laughed.

At Media Day, he was told he was among the best-looking NBA players in a survey of Japanese women. He gave a textbook LaMarcus response.

As if that wasn't enough to make you fall in love with him all over again if you're a Blazers fan, hoopheads will appreciate the way he's lobbying future free agents to come to Portland this summer: using cap flexibility as bait.

So, while other All-Star reserves may get more attention — and snubs like Stephen Curry get more still — don't mind Aldridge, the All-Star you never see coming, since he's been here all along.

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