Portland Trail Blazers: Can LaMarcus Aldridge Win The MVP?

Dec 17, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (right) celebrates with point guard Damian Lillard (0) after Lillard
Dec 17, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (right) celebrates with point guard Damian Lillard (0) after Lillard /

The Portland Trail Blazers were a surprising Western Conference playoff team last season. Powered by a high-octane offense that involved a lot of outside shots, the Blazers made an incredible run to the post season. The team was powered by LaMarcus Aldridge, who was a surprising mid-season candidate to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.

Of course, Aldridge went down 13 games with injury, affecting his run towards serious MVP contention. However, even if he had played all of the games we all know that the MVP was going to be between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, as it is every year.

That’s one thing that’s predictable about the NBA: there are only two or three realistic candidates at the MVP award.

But this year could be different. With the news that Kevin Durant suffered a stress fracture and will likely miss six to eight weeks, there could be an opening for a new MVP candidate to emerge. LeBron James will still likely be the winner of that award, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have some serious competition.

And who better than the man that powered the Blazers to an unexpected 54 wins? LaMarcus Aldridge was extremely good last season. Seriously, take a look at his numbers last year:

2013-14 ★6936.2.4584.35.2.82211.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/24/2014.

Twenty-three points and 11 rebounds per game make for a solid MVP candidate. But how can Aldridge improve upon that? How can Aldridge become a serious threat to Durant and James? He needs to increase his efficiency. Aldridge has an extremely good looking offensive repertoire that helps expand the defense and open lanes to the basket.

His mid-range jump shots are beautiful rainbows that drop softly into the net. But, as beautiful as his 18 foot jump shot is, it’s still one of the least efficient shots a player can take.

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Indeed, Aldridge ends up taking too many long jump shots. More than 40 percent–41.5 percent, to be exact–of his field goal attempts came from 16 feet and beyond. He only hit 44.2 percent of shots from that distance, which is a high percentage, but it still pales to the percentage of shots made from five feet and in.

We all know that Aldridge has a great back-to-the-basket game and can make a variety of hook shots once he establishes position. So why not go to those first? If Aldridge hit 50-55 percent of his shots, he could easily bump those 23 points to 28-30 points per game.

LaMarcus Aldridge needs to focus on increasing his efficiency. It isn’t as pretty as his 20-foot jump shot, but it’s certainly more effective. I’d imagine that it would be hard to vote against a player who led his team to the playoffs in the Western Conference and is averaging 29 points and 11 rebounds.

That’s pretty much the only knock on Aldridge’s MVP aspirations. His defense is adequate enough. All he needs to do is stay healthy and to play a smarter brand of basketball.

If Aldridge can put it all together, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t at least be a serious candidate for the award. With Durant out for the first few weeks and LeBron getting used to a new team, this is Aldridge’s chance to put his stamp on the Trail Blazers’ 2014-15 season.