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Can LaMarcus Aldridge be the long-term solution at center for Portland?

Another way to ask this question — one that recognizes increased positional flexibility — might be this: Can Portland thrive using more lineups in which Aldridge is the biggest or tallest guy on the court?

The Trail Blazers started to answer this question last season, when injuries and other roster realities forced him to split his minutes almost evenly between center and power forward, with the latter lineups featuring Marcus Camby or Joel Przybilla as more traditional centers alongside Aldridge. Przybilla missed most of the season before the Blazers dealt him to the Charlotte. Greg Oden, the elephant in the room here, missed the entire season and will be a restricted free agent once the NBA resumes business. Camby remains a useful player, but he’s well into the twilight of his career and such a non-factor on offense that Portland almost plays four-on-five when he’s on the court — at least until a shot goes up and he can do his thing on the glass.

The Blazers also have a roster stocked with wing players, including at least one guy (Gerald Wallace) with loads of experience as a small-ball power forward. (Note: Nicolas Batum has played the “four” as well, but he hasn’t proved to be reliable over the long haul.)

Aldridge is big enough at 6-foot-11 (and with a much-improved post game that draws constant double teams) that he’ll always play some center, but the Blazers will have to decide whether such lineups will be core fixtures or change-of-style weapons. I looked at every regular-season lineup (minimum: 20 minutes of floor time) and playoff lineup (minimum: six minutes of floor time) that featured Aldridge at power forward and center to see how the Blazers functioned in each setting. The division between the two is pretty stark; the smaller lineups typically featured either Wallace or Dante Cunningham (also dealt to Charlotte) as the next-tallest player on the floor, and each of those guys is probably better suited as a small forward rather than as a power forward.

The general results:

Small lineups
1,406.28 minutes
114.6 points per 100 possessions
106.05 points allowed per 100 possessions

Big lineups
1,470.59 minutes
108.1 points per 100 possessions
105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions
http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2011/08/24/best-position-for-aldridge-is-up-for-debate/
 

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I've always been a big supporter of putting your best 5 guys on the floor as often as possible. Regardless of anyone's natural positions, Portland's best 5 is:

PG Raymond Felton
SG Wesley Matthews or Brandon Roy
SF Brandon Roy or Nicolas Batum
PF Gerald Wallace
C LaMarcus Aldridge
 
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