Aldridge Continues Late-Season Climb Up NBA.com MVP Rankings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

Last week, LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the NBA.com “Race To The MVP” rankings, showing up at No. 8, after a prolonged hiatus due to injury. Portland winning four-straight and clinching a playoff spot immediately following Aldridge’s return from a lower back contusion was all the proof needed to show that the three-time All-Star power forward is indeed a most valuable player to the Trail Blazers.

And this week, Aldridge continues to climb up the MVP rankings. While it’s all but a two-man race between Kevin Durant and LeBron James for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award, it’s still good to see Aldridge bump up three spots to No. 5 in this week’s rankings

Aldridge is the definition of an MVP with what he’s meant to the Trail Blazers this season. They were a totally different team without him in the lineup last month while he dealt with a sore back. Their 3-4 record during his absence last month put them in danger of falling out of the West’s ultra-competitive playoff chase. They are 6-1 since he returned (Aldridge is averaging 22 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.1 apg and 1.1 bpg in that span) and clinched their playoff spot during his comeback. As good as Damian Lillard is and has been this season, the Blazers will go only as far as Aldridge leads them in the playoffs. This is his team.

And it has been for some time now. The Trail Blazers would struggle mightily if Lillard, who made the MVP rankings back when the Trail Blazers were running roughshod over teams earlier in the season, missed time due to injury as Aldridge has this season, but Aldridge is still the linchpin to Portland’s success. That much was evident when the Trail Blazers lost three consecutive games, including a double-digit loss to the Orlando Magic, immediately preceding Aldridge’s return.

Aldridge is ranked behind Joakim Noah at No. 4 and ahead of James Harden at No. 6.

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Aldridge, Lillard Keep Pace In NBA 'Race To The MVP' Rankings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
11 months ago

It’s been a while since we checked in on NBA.com’s weekly “Race To The MVP Ladder” rankings, so let’s catch up on where LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard stack up among the most valuable players in the NBA this season.

Aldridge comes in at No. 6 this week, a four-spot improvement from last week …

Forget about the pedestrian recent numbers (15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists in his last five games) and consider that Aldridge might be the toughest player in the league this season, playing with that torn ligament in his left thumb. The Trail Blazers are going to need every bit of energy he can muster down the stretch of this regular season if they’re going to hold on to their spot in the top half of the Western Conference playoff chase. Aldridge, who is averaging an impressive 23.1 points and 10.3 rebounds on the season, and the Blazers will get a huge test from that revamped, Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder team Friday night at Moda Center. The Thunder frontcourt better be ready for heavy doses of Aldridge early, often and all night as the Trail Blazers try and make a statement of their own.

After taking the first two games this season, the Trail Blazers could clinch the season series with the Thunder by winning tonight’s game, always a nice ace to have up your sleeve in case the Western Conference playoff race comes down to tiebreakers. Portland, as we saw on Sunday versus the Grizzlies, needs Aldridge to beat the best teams in the league, and with the way Westbrook has been playing, the Thunder certainly qualify as one of the best right now.

Aldridge is ranked behind Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague at No. 5 and ahead of Golden State guard Klay Thompson at No. 7.

As for Lillard, he comes in at No. 9 this week, two spots lower than last week …

Lillard’s role as catalyst and director for a team that has a player as accomplished as LaMarcus Aldridge makes his inclusion on this list even more impressive. Lillard is asked to play so many different roles (facilitator, scorer, etc.) that a simple position designation doesn’t do his game justice. In eight games this month, Lillard is averaging 19.6 points, 6.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 seals. Lillard worked the San Antonio Spurs for 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in a home win Wednesday night, knocking down 7 of his 15 shots from the floor and 3-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line. When Lillard is consistently knocking down that deep ball, he’s as dangerous as any point guard in the league.

Wednesday night’s performance was a step in the right direction for Lillard and Wesley Matthews, both of whom have experienced minor lulls in their three-point shooting percentage since the start of February. But both players, particularly Lillard, have tried to attack the basket more often while waiting for the three ball to come back around, so it’s not all bad.

Lillard is ranked behind Grizzlies center Marc Gasol at No. 8 and ahead of Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry at No. 10.

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Aldridge, Lillard Keep Pace In NBA ‘Race To The MVP’ Rankings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
11 months ago

It’s been a while since we checked in on NBA.com’s weekly “Race To The MVP Ladder” rankings, so let’s catch up on where LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard stack up among the most valuable players in the NBA this season.

Aldridge comes in at No. 6 this week, a four-spot improvement from last week …

Forget about the pedestrian recent numbers (15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists in his last five games) and consider that Aldridge might be the toughest player in the league this season, playing with that torn ligament in his left thumb. The Trail Blazers are going to need every bit of energy he can muster down the stretch of this regular season if they’re going to hold on to their spot in the top half of the Western Conference playoff chase. Aldridge, who is averaging an impressive 23.1 points and 10.3 rebounds on the season, and the Blazers will get a huge test from that revamped, Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder team Friday night at Moda Center. The Thunder frontcourt better be ready for heavy doses of Aldridge early, often and all night as the Trail Blazers try and make a statement of their own.

After taking the first two games this season, the Trail Blazers could clinch the season series with the Thunder by winning tonight’s game, always a nice ace to have up your sleeve in case the Western Conference playoff race comes down to tiebreakers. Portland, as we saw on Sunday versus the Grizzlies, needs Aldridge to beat the best teams in the league, and with the way Westbrook has been playing, the Thunder certainly qualify as one of the best right now.

Aldridge is ranked behind Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague at No. 5 and ahead of Golden State guard Klay Thompson at No. 7.

As for Lillard, he comes in at No. 9 this week, two spots lower than last week …

Lillard’s role as catalyst and director for a team that has a player as accomplished as LaMarcus Aldridge makes his inclusion on this list even more impressive. Lillard is asked to play so many different roles (facilitator, scorer, etc.) that a simple position designation doesn’t do his game justice. In eight games this month, Lillard is averaging 19.6 points, 6.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 seals. Lillard worked the San Antonio Spurs for 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in a home win Wednesday night, knocking down 7 of his 15 shots from the floor and 3-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line. When Lillard is consistently knocking down that deep ball, he’s as dangerous as any point guard in the league.

Wednesday night’s performance was a step in the right direction for Lillard and Wesley Matthews, both of whom have experienced minor lulls in their three-point shooting percentage since the start of February. But both players, particularly Lillard, have tried to attack the basket more often while waiting for the three ball to come back around, so it’s not all bad.

Lillard is ranked behind Grizzlies center Marc Gasol at No. 8 and ahead of Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry at No. 10.

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LaMarcus Aldridge's Triumphant Return To the NBA.com MVP Rankings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

LaMarcus Aldridge had been a mainstay of the NBA.com “Race To The MVP” ladder for much of the season, rising to as high as No. 3 to start 2014 after leading the Trail Blazers to one of the best records in the NBA. Aldridge held the three-spot for a month before the first signs of a groin injury that would sideline the three-time All-Star took a bite out of his effectiveness.

He fell out of the Top 10 completely after the All-Star break as he struggled to find his rhythm after the groin injury, just as the Trail Blazers struggled to win close games against playoff-caliber teams. So by time his lower back was contused in the March 12 loss to the Spurs, Aldridge was already out of the MVP conversation.

But seeing how bad the Trail Blazers could be without Aldridge seems to have reminded people just how good he has been this season. After losing three-straight games with Aldridge on the bench, included a 30-point blowout loss to the Bobcats and a double-digit loss to the Orlando Magic, the 6-11 power forward returned to the lineup and almost instantly turned the team’s fortunes. Since his return in the March 27 game against the Hawks in Atlanta, the Trail Blazers have rattled off four-straight wins and look like the team that some considered, at least at one point earlier in the season, as a darkhorse to win the Western Conference.

And the MVP ranking has taken notice. By virtue of righting the ship at just the right time, Aldridge returns to the MVP Ladder this week, coming in at No. 8 …

The Blazers’ season was in serious jeopardy, like not-make-the-playoffs type-stuff, as Aldridge nursed a back injury for seven games. But his return has been just the salve Portland needed to rediscover its early-season mojo. He returned on March 27 and Portland hasn’t lost since, winning four in a row to solidify their spot as the No. 5 seed. While watching his minutes, Aldridge has averaged 22.3 points and 12.0 rebounds a game. The Blazers love that kind of production from their All-Star big man and know more of that is needed if Portland has any hopes of making playoff noise.

When the Blazers went 4-1 without Aldridge after

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the All-Star break, you heard whispers here and there that maybe the team could actually be better without him. But the way the team struggled in their second stint with Aldridge on the injured list was definitive proof that this team goes nowhere without their best player. It also proved his qualifications as an MVP-caliber player this season.

Aldridge is ranked behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry at No. 7 and ahead of New York’s Carmelo Anthony at No. 9.

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