Name: LaMarcus Aldridge
Position: Power Forward
Last Week’s Stats: 26.3 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 55.8 FG%
For just the second time in his career, LaMarcus Aldridge heard chants of “MVP!” at the Moda Center this past week.
Needless to say, the chants were well-deserved, and the big man has earned honors in this week’s Portland Trail Blazers player spotlight.
Before we dive into just how productive LaMarcus Aldridge was this past week, I need to own up to something. I legitimately thought entering the 2013-14 NBA season that Portland would become Damian Lillard‘s team, and that it would happen sooner rather than later.
All the signs were there. Damian Lillard was the consensus rookie of the year, Aldridge was seemingly unhappy in the Pacific Northwest and the team was in the midst of a rebuild that focused exclusively on what the point guard needed to be successful.
I ultimately predicted that things would end up okay between Aldridge and the organization, but I saw him becoming a No. 2 option to Damian Lillard, similarly to how he was used behind Brandon Roy for many years.
At this point in the season, it goes without saying that I’m eating crow. Aldridge and Lillard have become the ideal 1a-1b combo, but it’s the power forward taking the reins as the team’s most valuable player.
Aldridge heard the MVP chants during the final period of the Blazers’ win over the Oklahoma city Thunder. He finished with 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and while it’s clear he’s the most valuable player on the team, it begs the question: Is he a legitimate MVP candidate across the NBA?
At this point, it depends on what you consider “legitimate.” Can he beat out LeBron James or Chris Paul? Let’s just say he would need to keep up his current pace for the rest of the season — plus some.
However, if you’re asking is he a top-10, or even top-five candidate, the answer is a resounding yes.
Behind James and Paul, you’re looking at players such as Kevin Durant and Paul George as the next in line. Kevin Love is a good candidate too, but Aldridge has done more for his team now that the Blazers are winning at an unexpectedly high rate.
Aldridge has thrived this season, and especially this past week, for a few reasons; each of which are just as important as the others. First and foremost, Terry Stotts is doing exactly what Nate McMillan would never do, making the big man a No. 1 option. McMillan used Roy as a crutch, giving him the go-ahead to use isolation sets to milk the clock.
Stotts could do the same thing with Lillard, but he insists on being more creative and utilizing an inside-outside game.
Another reason Aldridge is having a career year is the addition of Robin Lopez. You might think that having a true 7-footer in the lineup would take away from rebounding opportunities, but it’s done quite the opposite. Robin Lopez is the kind of player who is going to box out bigger bodies and take up space, leaving more loose balls for Aldridge to chase.
JJ Hickson was an incredible energy guy last season, and you can’t take away from what he brought to the team. That said, he didn’t make life any easier on Aldridge, which is something Lopez has done all season long.
As we get closer to the New Year, the hope is that Aldridge’s success is sustainable. He’s averaging nearly 37 minutes per game, and as the team hits inevitable times of adversity, he’s going to be counted upon to play just as many, if not more minutes.
Luckily for the 28-year-old, he has plenty of help around him to remove the pressure, and as long as the team keeps winning, he’ll be looked at as one of the best players in the league once the season comes to a close.