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.