In the NBA's version of the recent Super Bowl matchup, the league's top defensive team, the Indiana Pacers, is set for a showdown on Friday with one of the league's most efficient offenses, that of the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland's meteoric rise has been fueled by its attack, which has jumped from 17th to second in offensive efficiency since last season. The Trail Blazers actually lead the league in Basketball-Reference.com's version of efficiency because of a different method for counting possessions. Either way, the Blazers have developed a lethal formula for efficient scoring.
The guru behind all of this is head coach Terry Stotts, who is a perfect 21st-century blend of old-school basketball acumen and a new-school reliance on advanced metrics. He also learned from some top offensive coaches as an assistant, including George Karl, Rick Adelman and, most recently, Rick Carlisle. It's Carlisle's system that Portland's most resembles, a read-based scheme of structured improvisation, with emphases on ball movement, spacing and shooting. It doesn't hurt that Portland's three best perimeter players -- Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum -- also happen to be outstanding 3-point shooters. In an effort to space the floor, some coaches are forced to use guys who might be deficient in other areas. Stotts is not faced with that dilemma.
Yet the guy who makes all this go is power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who will make his third straight All-Star game appearance next week in New Orleans. Aldridge's PER of 22.9 is a career-high, but it's not out of line with what he posted in the three previous seasons, during which his aggregate PER was 21.4. What's changed is how Aldridge has gone about compiling that figure.