The Portland Trail Blazers expected a lot from Greg Oden when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, and while he’s been a big factor defensively, they’re still waiting for him to develop into a major offensive threat.
LaMarcus Aldridge, the No. 2 overall pick by the Blazers in 2006, has done just that.
After scoring a season high-tying 27 points in his last game, Aldridge looks to help the Blazers to their fifth straight win when they visit the high-scoring New York Knicks on Tuesday.
Portland (12-6) saw Oden as an eventual franchise center that would transform the team into an NBA title contender, and the 7-footer may someday fulfill those expectations, as he’s just 10 games into his career.
While Oden has been able to contribute rebounding and shot-blocking at this early stage, the Blazers would eventually like him to develop into a low-post scoring threat - much like Aldridge has.
After averaging 17.8 points in his second NBA season, Aldridge was up and down in November and suffered through a particularly poor five-game stretch, during which he averaged 10.0 points on 36.7 percent shooting.
Aldridge, though, closed the month on a high note, averaging 17.5 points on 51.8 percent shooting in his last four contests. He was at his best Sunday, going 11-for-19 from the field and finishing with 27 points to help Portland open its second five-game road trip of the season with a 96-85 win over Detroit.
“I was able to establish an inside presence early,” Aldridge said. “I was going to the basket and getting to the line, and I think as the game went on I was able to go to my jump shot more. My jumper has felt better these past few games and I’ve been shooting it with great confidence.”
While Oden isn’t yet the polished offense presence Aldridge has become, the Blazers haven’t lost since their center returned to the starting lineup from a reserve role Nov. 24. Oden’s averaging only 6.3 points in the last four games, but he’s given his team a major boost on defense.
Portland gave up 100.0 points per game in the six games Oden missed with a foot injury from Oct. 31-Nov. 10, but has allowed 88.9 ppg in 11 contests since he came back - 82.3 in the last four.
Coach Nate McMillan was particularly pleased with the Blazers’ defense Sunday.
“This was a gritty effort,” McMillan said. “When you go into Detroit and beat them, it is going to be with a gritty effort.”
The Knicks (8-8) should provide Portland with a challenge defensively, as they’re the Eastern Conference’s highest-scoring team at 106.4 ppg. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack, however, has also led to New York giving up a conference-worst 108.8 ppg.
The high-octane style was on full display Saturday, as the Knicks ran past Golden State 138-125 and set a record at the present Madison Square Garden with 82 first-half points. David Lee had career highs of 37 points and 21 rebounds, Al Harrington scored 36 points and Chris Duhon had a franchise-record 22 assists.
“That’s what a point guard’s supposed to do, is get their team involved,” Duhon said. “If I can do that every night I would love it. I love sharing the ball, I love getting those guys involved.”
The Knicks lead the league in field-goal attempts per game (88.8) and are on pace to average more 3-point attempts (29.6) than any team in NBA history.
With leading scorers Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford gone via trades, Nate Robinson is one of New York’s top scoring threats at 14.5 points per game. The point guard, however, has missed two games after straining his groin last week.
Robinson is expected back Tuesday, and the Blazers should certainly be wary. Robinson scored a career-high 45 points against Portland on March 8 at MSG, but the Blazers won 120-114 in overtime behind 27 from Brandon Roy and 22 from Aldridge.