The Portland Trail Blazers were once atop the NBA’s Western Conference standings in the 2013-14 regular season. That seems like eons ago at this point though considering how they’ve performed as of late. Portland has lost their last three games, including one on Tuesday to a lackluster Orlando Magic team, and has lost eight of their last 11 games.
What has certainly not been working in Portland’s favor as of late, though, is the fact that they’ve been without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge over the last seven games. The Trail Blazers are 3-4 without Aldridge on the floor, but have looked even worse than that record might indicate. However, relief may be coming quite soon.
According to a report from Chris Haynes of CSN Northeast, Aldridge is trying “no matter what” to be on the floor for Portland on Thursday as the team takes on the Atlanta Hawks. Aldridge said that it’s up to the medical staff ultimately, but that he’s gearing up to take the floor once again after this seven-game absence.
In the report, Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez didn’t mince words when talking about Aldridge and this team’s need for him to return. Lopez said, “In order for us to be at our best, he has to be on the court with us. He’s our leader.” What Lopez is really trying to say, though, is that they need Aldridge to come and rescue a sinking ship.
Obviously Aldridge’s numbers this season have been impressive. In the 60 games that he’s played, the forward has put up 23.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and one block in 36.5 minutes per game, though his 45.9 percent shooting is a tad unflattering. However, it’s his absence that really shows his value to this team beyond his numbers.
Throughout the entire season for Portland, they have had the fifth best offense in the league, putting up 108.1 points per 100 possessions. However, in the last seven games with Aldridge out of the lineup, the Blazers are putting up just 106.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s not the only area the Trail Blazers have been negatively affected.
While Aldridge isn’t known for his defense, this team has been noticeably worse on that end of the floor with him out of the lineup, giving up 3.6 more points per 100 possessions over the past seven games than their season average. A big part of that is due to the rebounding rate. Over the past seven games without Aldridge, they’ve posted a rebound percentage of just 48.1 percent and a defensive rebound percentage of 72.9 percent. In comparison, the Trail Blazers have a rebound percentage of 51.6 percent and defensive rebound percentage of 74.6 percent for the year.
Looking at those rebounding numbers, specifically the defensive rebounding numbers, the Blazers are giving opponents extra opportunities and possessions without Aldridge on the floor to gobble up rebounds. That’s a big issue for a team whose defense hasn’t been great and can’t afford much decline at all.
Aldridge returning could very well save this team’s season. They’re more than likely going to make the postseason regardless, but they are in danger of slipping to the sixth seed as of right now, a far cry from where they once sat. If Aldridge can come back and help pick up the offense while also helping Portland on the glass, the ailments of this team as of late might start to be mended.