LaMarcus Aldridge has had a great season so far. He is averaging career highs in points (23.6), rebounds (11.2), assists (2.8) and free throw percentage (82%). MVP numbers? Sure, as long as we are talking about the MVP of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The truth is that there isn’t much competition for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award outside of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Those two are putting up monster numbers while carrying their teams on their back. I believe an MVP candidate is a player that the team will fail without. The Thunder and Heat each have some solid players on their teams, but wouldn’t be considered teams that would push far into the playoffs without their stars.
The Trail Blazers played pretty well while Aldridge was out with a groin injury, going 4-1 during that stretch. The Blazers have a very unselfish team and that allows for several players to be able to have a big game on any given night. Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Mo Williams each can go on a scoring tear at any given time. Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum have even shown they can put up points in bunches. Aldridge might be a valuable piece to the Blazers success this season, but he frankly hasn’t been relevant enough for him to be an MVP candidate. Again, this isn’t a knock on Aldridge, but instead speaks volumes to the skill and talent levels of Durant and James. Even players like Paul George, Blake Griffin and James Harden have no chance at the award.
It has taken Aldridge a few games to get back to his normal self since coming back from his groin injury. He averaged 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his first three games back, and in the next two games he averaged 29 points and 14.5 rebounds. During the five-game stretch Aldridge has been back the Trail Blazers have a record of 2-3. Does that mean much in the big picture? Probably not. All of the Blazers losses during the stretch have been by five points or less, including an overtime loss to the Rockets in Houston. Aldridge needs to put up some good numbers though if the Trail Blazers want to improve their seeding in the Western Conference in time for the playoffs. The Blazers are the fifth seed right now with a 42-21 record, with the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth seed at 44-20 and the Golden State Warriors in the sixth seed at 39-24.
Aldridge may not be a league MVP candidate, but fortunately he doesn’t need to be with the tough and gritty play the entire Blazers rotation brings to the court. If Aldridge isn’t careful though there is another Trail Blazer who could push him for the teams’ MVP, All-Star Damian Lillard. But I don’t think the Blazers care who is playing the best as long as they are winning games.