NBA History: 50 best NBA players of the 21st century

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LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

LaMarcus Aldridge. 38. player. 34. . PF. Portland Trail Blazers

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 38. LaMarcus Aldridge

Few players have been more steadfast in their excellence over the last decade-plus than LaMarcus Aldridge, who is only now beginning to fade. The seven-time All-Star has long been one of the NBA’s most potent bigs — a multifaceted scorer with the defensive prowess to anchor a team on both ends.

With an impressive blend of strength and fluidity at 6-foot-11, peak Aldridge was near impossible to stop inside the 3-point line. He was aces from mid-range, and possessed one of the most polished post repertoires in the league. He had the size to shoot over defenders, the muscle to battle in the paint, or the awareness to locate open teammates.

Portland never ascended to the mountaintop during Aldridge’s time there, and the Spurs have since struggled in the post-Tim Duncan era. Even so, Aldridge’s consistent presence as the best player on a perennial playoff team deserves credit. He kept the Blazers on the map until handing over the keys, metaphorically speaking, to Damian Lillard.

There are more flashy names than Aldridge who deserve consideration on this list. And yet, few of them were as good for as long. Aldridge has spent over a decade producing a steady 20-10 — putting Portland and then San Antonio comfortably on his broad shoulders.

37. player. 156. . PF. Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Love

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 37. Kevin Love

This may seem high for Kevin Love, who never got far as the No. 1 option in Minnesota. That said, it’s difficult to blame Love for the Wolves’ lack of supporting talent. In his third season, Love averaged a league-best 15.5 rebounds per game. In his fourth season, he averaged 26.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, making his second of five All-Star appearances. The production has always been there.

In the end, it is Love’s time in Cleveland that will largely define his NBA career. While it’s difficult to stand out in the shadow of LeBron James, Love’s contributions to Cleveland were vast and many. He was an integral part of the 2016 championship team — the team that knocked off the 73-win Warriors. Love had several clutch moments in that series and was a borderline 20-10 guy for a perennial contender. It’s hard to complain.

Love’s career has taken a nosedive of late, for reasons both injury and rebuild-related. He is out of his prime and may never contribute in such a significant role on a contender. And yet, very few players can claim third-wheel status on a title team. Love has a ring and all the accolades to earn a spot among his peers on this list.

History will smile fondly upon Love, who was a top-tier frontcourt player in Minnesota before transitioning into the role of high-level complement to a LeBron-led championship team. Love has proven himself adaptable, yet prolific in his offensive production. His spot on this list is well-earned.