Sometimes the Portland Trail Blazers are out of the spotlight, primarily due to playing in the Pacific Time Zone and a general lack of national television exposure. Not during these NBA playoffs, though. By scoring 46 and 43 points against the Rockets in the first two games of their series, LaMarcus Aldridge basketball cards are getting noticed and NBA fans around the world are talking about the Blazers.
Houston coach Kevin McHale has seen this type of scoring in the playoffs before. He was the power forward for the Celtics when Michael Jordan set the record for points per game in a playoff series, a record that Aldridge has a chance to break. At 28, Aldridge isn't your first choice for a long-term investment but if his performance this year truly portends great things ahead, his cards have to be considered more than reasonable right now.
2006 Draft Pick Trade
The Aldridge story nearly started its first NBA chapter in Chicago. He was drafted by the Bulls with the second pick of the 2006 draft but was then traded for Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa. Portland got the fundamentally-sound forward/center and Chicago brought in the freak athlete but it was a huge trade win for Portland. Playing in a large media market like Chicago would have meant a lot more fans and collectors were interested in his cards but now, he’s impossible to ignore and his rookie cards are starting to climb.
Some collectors would have been reluctant to chase a Portland player after the injury-plagued careers of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, but the numbers being put up by the player who is the talk of the 2014 playoffs are getting too big to ignore. A deep playoff run by the Trail Blazers could have people getting back on the Portland bandwagon, like when Clyde was there gliding or even earlier when Walton was winning.
Aldridge’s 2006-07 Exquisite Collection rookie card has his autograph and a jersey piece and is limited to 99 examples. A month ago, one sold via eBay for $280. A Parallel version, numbered to 12 sold for $887. There was a time when a Brandon Roy rookie from Exquisite was two or three times the price of an Aldridge card, but now an Aldridge is worth around twice as much as a Roy. From that rookie class, only Rajon Rondo has rookie cards at prices similar to those of Aldridge.
Other significant rookie cards that Aldridge collectors enjoy are his UD Black and Topps Finest cards with the many Refractor parallels. Autograph hunters have more than 50 Aldridge cards from his rookie year to find but prices have been modest. An Ultimate Collection #199 sold for $41 on eBay while his 2006-07 Fleer Hot Prospects Notable Notations #LA was only $15.49 when sold back in February.
Why Aldridge didn't have huge success early in his career can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Portland wasn't a contender. It was Brandon Roy's team and collectors liked Roy’s above the rim game a little better. Aldridge had a few health problems, the team was unsettled and there was talk at times of Aldridge being traded. He would sometimes have to spend too much time defending larger centers and his offensive game needed to improve in some areas.
That doesn't mean Aldridge didn't have some great cards produced after his rookie year. From 2007-08, there are Aldridge cards in Exquisite Collection, Ultimate Collection and UD Black to invest in. Fans of Texas players might want to find the 2007-08 Ultimate Collection Matchups Autographs #DA card that has Aldridge and Kevin Durant, numbered to 25. There's one available right now for $43.95--a reasonable figure.
There are few expensive Aldridge cards from 2008-09, and a collector might be able to find a dozen quality autograph and memorabilia cards and still get change from spending $100. There are plenty of bargains to find among his cards from the following two seasons. Aldridge played in his first All-Star Game in 2011-12 and when a player takes his game to that level it can mean more collectors want their basketball cards. Aldridge cards in National Treasures, with multi-colored patches, and the booklets in Preferred are great designs. For 2012-13, Aldridge cards from Flawless could be what collectors want. His base cards with diamonds have been selling for around $150. A numbered 10 of 10 patch card from Flawless sold on eBay for $150.
In 2013-14, Portland is perfectly constructed to help Aldridge play at his best. There are often two passers on the floor, and both Lillard and Nicolas Batum can get the ball to Aldridge. Those two also spread the floor with their outside shooting, along with Wes Matthews, allowing Aldridge to work without double-teams. A huge addition to Portland, and the player who makes everything a lot easier for Aldridge, is Robin Lopez. He may not score points like his brother, but he is a lot healthier and by putting his big frame—and hair-- on opposing centers it means Aldridge isn't getting punished in the post and can use more energy on the offensive end.
Some of Aldridge's more popular cards from 2013-14 are his Prizm parallel cards. Two Prizm Gold autographs, numbered to 10 have sold on eBay for $117.50 and $100. Several of his 2013-14 Gold Standard base parallels have sold on eBay recently, at $28 and $25.30. There was also an Aldridge card with a piece of real gold, selling for $24.
The Lillard Factor
A big reason why Aldridge's basketball cards are being looked at by more collectors is Damian Lillard. Jordan collectors would also buy Scottie Pippen cards, and now that Lillard has many fans he is also getting collectors to notice other Trail Blazers. It doesn't hurt that Lillard can get into the paint, draw Aldridge's defender and get LaMarcus the easy dunk. Lillard and Aldridge can be the new Stockton to Malone of the NBA. They can also continue to get better, and Aldridge is yet to peak as a player and is continuing to add new offensive moves to his repertoire which was quite impressive when he entered the NBA from Texas.
He has certainly improved. 2013-14 was the first season that Aldridge averaged double-figure rebound numbers, with 11.1 per game. His 23.2 points per game this year is also his career-high and he’s about 10 percent better at the free throw line. Aldridge's turnovers and fouls are decreasing and those who play fantasy NBA would know he gets around a steal and a block per game plus he can hit his shot over nearly any defender. If Aldridge would bank some of his medium-range shots off the backboard he could be compared, offensively, to Tim Duncan.
You won’t find LaMarcus Aldridge basketball cards at the top of the ‘most watched’ list yet, but if he continues to carry the Blazers deep into the playoffs with more prolific scoring, those who bought in might be happy they did. You can see what’s being offered on eBay here.