What if Aldridge was a Raptor?

DAN ILIKA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:01 PM ET

TORONTO - The world of basketball is filled with what-ifs.

What if Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady would have put their egos aside and played together in Toronto? What if Kobe and Shaq would have made it work in L.A.? What if Tim Duncan would have signed with the Orlando Magic in 2000? 

There are even some smaller what-ifs. What if Shawn Kemp never got fat? There had to be a clause in his contract that read something like, ‘if traded, Shawn is entitled to a lifetime supply of Dunkin’ Donuts.’

The NBA catch phrase is: “Where amazing happens.” But, our focus here is on those times when amazing could have happened but didn’t.

And with the Portland Trailblazers rolling into town on Friday night, we have a perfect (although painful for Raptors fans) example.

What if the Raptors took LaMarcus Aldridge over Andrea Bargnani with the first-overall pick in the 2006 draft?

Just let it sink in for a moment. It stings a little, right?

Let’s take a look back. 

Heading into draft night 2006, I was higher on Aldridge than Rasheed Wallace during his days with the Portland Jailblazers.

The thinking was that the 6-foot-11 Texas native was the guy. With his size, post skills and developing defence. He was no Chris Bosh, but wasn’t that the whole point?

Dreams of a twin towers-esque frontcourt duo of Aldridge and Bosh were stuff dreams were made of. It was exciting just thinking of the two athletic bigs dominating the paint for years to come.

Unfortunately, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo didn’t see it that way and it went from a dream to a distant memory — a dinosaur-size what-if?

Aldridge has grown into an elite big man for Portland, steadily improving year-after-year into an elite scorer and, wait for it ... rebounder.

He doesn’t board like Kevin Love, but not many do.

What he does give you is a comfortable nine rebounds a game, with close to four of those coming on the offensive glass.

In the absence of Brandon Roy, Marcus Camby and Greg Oden, Aldridge has stepped into a leadership roll with Portland and it shows.

Heading into Friday night’s game in Toronto the Blazers sit eighth in the Western Conference and looked poised to make the playoffs.

Behind Bargnani the Raps sit 14-39 and look poised to make at least three weekend rounds of golf in April.

It’s not that Bargnani doesn’t have skills. He can stretch the floor with the three-ball, pull up for the jumper from anywhere on the court and even play an oddly athletic game where he can drive the lane and — gasp! — touch the rim.

So why can’t that jumping ability and work ethic on the offensive end translate into a little hustle on the boards?

Offensively, the guy is a stud. Defensively, he fairs okay. But when your centre is averaging 51/2 rebounds a game, it’s hard not to wonder what if.

Raptors fans have been patient, but is it too much to ask for a starting centre who can rebound.

In 47 games this season, Bargnani is averaging 21.3 points per contest on .445% shooting.

Through 52 games for Portland, Aldridge is averaging a comparable 21.6 points and .489% from the field.

The big difference between the two is the 3.6 rebound advantage Aldridge has.

To add insult to injury, consider this. While the idea behind bringing in guys like TJ Ford and Jarrett Jack was to surround Bosh with friends in an attempt to keep him in a Raps uniform was a great idea, it clearly didn’t pan out.

The oft-injured Ford wasn’t as good a distributor as Jose Calderon and he had to go; and Jack, well we all know being Bosh’s former college roommate wasn’t enough to keep him in Toronto.

But Aldridge could have been different. They came up together in Texas, and Bosh even reportedly lobbied Toronto brass to draft Aldridge.

The end result? 

Instead of the CN Towers, Raps fans ended up with a giant-sized what-if.


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