Most of the time, the NBA MVP award goes to the best player on the best teams. Coming into this season, the list of MVP candidates were James, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. All of these teams were preseason picks to get deep into the postseason and make a run at the NBA title.
One name that didn’t make a lot of lists was LaMarcus Aldridge. Even though he is one of the top power forwards in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers have not been in the postseason since the 2010-11 season. They are coming off a season where they went 33-49, and they didn’t have a first-round pick in the NBA draft. They are returning almost the same starting lineup with the exception of Robin Lopez taking over at center for J.J. Hickson.
Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland had the best record in the NBA at 21-4, and Aldridge just won his second-straight Western Conference Player of the Week award. Aldridge is averaging 23.5 points and 10.9 rebounds, and is shooting 48.5 percent from the field. He is ranked eighth in points per game and fifth in rebounds in the NBA. He also has 14 double-doubles in the first 25 games.
Cleveland presents a size issue for Aldridge. They rotate between Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum, Tristan Thompson and no. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett at the power forward and center positions. Aldridge responded by scoring 26 points and grabbing 15 boards in 37 minutes. Bynum and Thompson, who started at center and power forward, combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds.
While the big matchup of the game was between point guards Kyrie Irving of Cleveland and Damian Lillard of Portland, Aldridge was the difference in the game again. Lillard nearly had a triple-double and led all scorers with 36 points and eight 3-pointers. As good of a game as he had, he was even in the plus/minus category, while Aldridge finished as a +5. With Portland winning by only three points, he had more of an impact in his 37 minutes than Lillard did in his 38.
If Portland continues to win and makes a run for the no. 1 seed in the West, Aldridge could be the first Blazer to win MVP since Bill Walton in 1977-78.