Who’s Better: Chris Bosh Or LaMarcus Aldridge?

No position in the NBA is as loaded as the power forward spot. True centers are dead. Two guards are top heavy. Small forwards all want to be two guards. And point guards that can actually run teams are outnumbered by athletes playing the spot. But look on almost every decent NBA roster, and you’ll find one of their best players is a power forward. Look at Pau Gasol. He’s been one of the 10 best players in the NBA for three years, and yet this season he might not even make the All-Star Game because there is so much competition.

But for a position so deep and different in talent, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge are oddly similar: Jump shooting, finesse big men who have been criticized throughout their careers for not being assertive enough. This season, we’ve seen both at their best. Aldridge is having what looks like his first All-Star year (finally), while Bosh has become comfortable as the third wheel in Miami.

But who do you think is better: Bosh or Aldridge? We argue. You decide.

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No star player has had it harder than Chris Bosh, from the personal attacks to his time as the first option in a forgotten NBA city to the move to Miami. The whole argument about Bosh not being a “No. 1” franchise talent, it’s never made sense to me. In Toronto, he averaged at least 22 points a night for five straight years. He led that franchise to the playoffs twice; In his second career playoff series, he averaged 24 and nine. Can you win a title with Bosh as your best player? Probably not. But he’s closer than LaMarcus Aldridge.

I guess it depends on how you look at a No. 1 guy. If that top dog has to lead his team into contention for championships, then how many truly great players are there? In Toronto, Bosh played in five straight All-Star Games and led teams into the playoffs where the second-best players were T.J. Ford and Anthony Parker. Aldridge has never won a playoff series (and he’s played with much better talent than Bosh had in Toronto) and he’s never even made a single All-Star Game.

If you go by career numbers, Bosh averages more points (20 to 17.6), more rebounds (9.2 to 7.5), more dimes (2.1 to 1.7) and also shoots it at a higher percentage and blocks more shots. He’s done more individually and won more with less (At least in Toronto. He can’t complain now.).

Even this season, while Aldridge has the better numbers, Bosh is averaging 20.7 points on 53 percent shooting as a No. 3 option. And I can guarantee LMA would not put up those numbers if these two switched teams. Bosh gets criticized for being soft or unaggressive, but Aldridge is arguably even worse. Sometimes he spends entire games drifting around the 17-foot arc, shooting nothing but standstill jumpers.

You might not like Bosh, but you have to respect his attitude. Who else would confront someone like Skip Bayless, and sit there and take the dude calling him out, calling him a woman on ESPN? In the playoffs last season, every time Bosh had a subpar night, he redeemed himself in the next game. After playing horribly in Game 3 in the semis against Boston, Bosh went for 20 and 12 the following game, hitting some of the biggest shots in the fourth quarter that basically killed the C’s season. After taking all of eight shots in Game 2 against Chicago, Bosh erupted for 34 points the following game (on 13-for-18 shooting). Miami might’ve blown the Finals, but while Dwyane Wade was surprisingly off and LeBron completely silent, Bosh came through with big shots down the stretch in nearly every game.

Who was perhaps Miami’s most consistent player in last season’s playoffs? Bosh. Who made the most with the least? Bosh.

Everyone loves to make fun of Bosh and say he could never lead a team on his own. But honestly, what has Aldridge done? Even this year with one of the most talented teams in the NBA, LMA has Portland at 12-9, probably one of the largest disappointments in the whole league. His numbers (22.6 points, 8.8 rebounds a night) aren’t much better than Bosh’s, despite being No. 2 (behind Blake Griffin) among all power forwards in usage rate (25.3). The last time Bosh got the ball as often as Aldridge, he only averaged 24 and 11. Call me when LMA reaches those numbers.

There’s a difference between what you do, and what you can do. Aldridge has everything he needs to meet individual expectations: an alpha dog role, a team of talented co-stars and a system that is predicated on getting him the ball in scoring positions as often as possible. Bosh plays with the two best players in the world, and often has to resort to leftovers, the pup in the region’s most dominant wolf pack.

Perception becomes reality. Roles can define who you are. In his case, it’s quite obvious Bosh is the one being asked to hold back. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do more.

One of the least talked about basketball hotbeds is Dallas. While Texas is widely known to be a football state, their hoops scene has emerged in the past decade. Through producing cats like arguably the best point guard in the game in Deron Williams or the second-most athletic center in the league in DeAndre Jordan, the state of Texas as a whole is a force. Still, can the best power forward right now reside from The Big D, too? And no, I’m not talking about everyone’s hyped-up, infatuated debate between Kevin Love and Blake Griffin (neither of whom is from Texas). The Texas two-step of LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh are legitimately deserving studs that belong in that conversation. Yet, it is the former cat that’s lately been killin’ the most.

“Like I always say, he doesn’t always get the attention that he deserves because we’re all the way up in the Pacific Northwest,” said veteran rebounding beast Marcus Camby after Aldridge went off — a season-high 33 points, a career-high 23 boards, five dimes, and two steals – recently on Bosh’s former Toronto Raptors squad. “But his game speaks volumes and tonight just solidified that he is the best power forward in the game.”

These remarks ring even more true when the game’s best small forward, LeBron James, raised the discussion level of Aldridge’s status before his Miami Heat were defeated by the Portland Trail Blazers last season:

“He is the biggest snub in All-Star history.”

Looking back at their recent matchups from last year, the stats clearly support such glowing comments. According to NBA.com’s StatsCube, Aldridge averaged 23.8 points, 18.2 field goal attempts, shot 54 percent from the field, 7.9 boards, and 3.7 dimes when Bosh was on the floor guarding him. The points, field goal attempts and dimes were all a 10 percent uptick from his season averages. By contrast, Bosh only managed to average 9.4 points, 12.2 field goal attempts, shoot 39 percent from the field, 4.2 boards, and zero dimes when Aldridge was on him. Furthermore, Aldridge murdered Bosh in their two meetings both in the paint and in the mid-range game by shooting 63 percent (5-8) to his goose egg (0-6) and 50 percent (8-16) to his 44 percent (7-16), respectively.

This small sample from their head-to-head matchups also reflects their distinctive differences. Aldridge’s skill-set is significantly more multi-faceted than Bosh’s. While they are both known to be serious threats as face-up fours, Aldridge has made major strides on his back-to-the-basket-game. Every night he faces double and sometimes even triple teams because of how often and how well he operates on the block. Bosh, on the other hand, is content to shoot open mid-range jumpers from the elbows and baselines off of dribble-penetration from King James and Flash. Without another superstar next to him, Aldridge takes more contested shots and tries to get buckets on his own while being the focal point of defenses on a nightly basis. Meanwhile, Bosh has the luxury of virtually being an after-thought when teams scheme against the Heat. All he has to do is be ready to shoot, be in position to drive to the rim off a late contest, or be around the hoop to receive a hand-off dish for a layup.

Thus far this season, Aldridge is averaging nine-plus shot attempts from within 10 feet as well as getting to the line nearly six times a night, both increases from his 2010 campaign, via HoopData.com. Bosh’s respective stats pale in comparison to these – averaging two fewer shots from 10-feet-and-in and three less trips to the charity stripe since 2010. These are the tangible stats that justify why Aldridge’s game is the closest thing today to an in-his-prime Big Fundamental, while Bosh gets stuck with the soft-labeled Pau Gasol comparison. Placing Aldridge’s name in the same sentence as Duncan and not have it sound blasphemous makes me wonder if he had a healthy Brandon Roy and Greg Oden all these years would Sir Charles proclaim him to overtake the aforementioned “greatest power forward of all-time?”

Most noteworthy, though, about what separates and elevates Aldridge from Bosh is his quiet but confident swagger. C’mon son, even his acronym of a nickname in L.A. is rather appropriate. His game is smooth and laid-back cool like the City of Angels, while Bosh merely plays in a city that’s fun and sunny. They both have accepted their present realities in opposite fashion. L.A. has grown to embrace the go-to-guy role up in Rip City and Bosh is comfortable not being the primary factor in South Beach.

On “Rome is Burning” with Jim Rome, Aldridge elaborated on serving as the Blazers’ Batman and No. 1 option:

“My teammates look to me to lead them, to guide them when things aren’t going right. You’re the person that has to figure it out how to fix it. I think that’s part that I’m growing in; learning how to be good in those bad moments. I think that’s what a Batman has to do. He has to be big in those moments, he has to lead, and he has to get on guys that aren’t doing the right thing. We base so much off of my post-play, off of my pick-and-roll that if I’m not brining my A game that it’ll be hard for us to win.”

As for Bosh, he informed The Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez that he doesn’t understand his role with the Heat, calling himself “the random guy.” He even admitted it’s hard for him to be aggressive all the time:

“I can make three (shots) in a row, then if I miss two in a row I feel like I’m blowing it.”

Yes, Chris Bosh certainly receives a lot of ill-advised flak and hate for being the Ringo Starr of the Heatles. But it’s time for cats to smell the Rose Garden’s real superstar in LaMarcus Aldridge — the best power forward produced out of The Big D.

Who would you take and why?

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