LaMarcus Aldridge's Huge Performance on Thursday Solidifies His MVP Candidacy

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2013

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LMA for MVP. Let's keep the hype train rolling for the Portland Trail Blazers' big man, especially after his monster game against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

In the Blazers' 111-104 win, LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points, 25 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals.

Portland's PR department noted how well this game stacks up in relation to this season and since the power forward has entered the league:

Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom found what may have been Aldridge's secret to success on Thursday:

Really, though, Aldridge didn't need any additional help. He was having his way in the paint against the Rockets, with Houston only putting one player against him in the post for the majority of the game. That unfortunate player was usually Terrence Jones. 

Long failing to get the respect he deserves, this season has seen the 28-year-old Aldridge jump into the MVP discussion. According to Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes, Aldridge ranked No. 5 in his "Superstar Rankings," and he should see a jump in the newest edition.

Dec 10, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates after a play in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Thunder won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get something straight: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the front-runners for MVP. Aldridge is on par with guys like Paul George, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. However, much can change between now and the end of the season. 

An eight-year pro, this has been Aldridge's best season yet. He's averaging career highs in points (23.5), rebounds (10.6), assists (2.7), steals (1.2) and PER (23.88).

Some may still tab Kevin Love as the best power forward in the game, and although he is having a fantastic season so far as well, Aldridge has taken his game to another level. Further, unlike the 11-11 Timberwolves, Aldridge's Blazers are 19-4. 

Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez deserve their share of the credit, but No. 12 is the centerpiece. 

Perhaps what's been the most impressive part of his game is the way he's taken over the leadership role on the court. After dealing with questions about whether he was capable of being the No. 1 guy on a title contender, Aldridge made steps last season toward proving the doubters wrong.

He told Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen

I realized that I had to be more vocal, more demanding -- and that I have to still do that more, I think. I have a tendency to roll with the punches. But this year, especially with things getting rougher, I call my own play. I think that's the start of me being more of the leader. I can still shoot it, but if they double-team me, I can still make the right pass and we can score. So I think that's part of my growth, knowing when to take over, knowing when to be more dominant, and knowing when to just flow with it.

With the Trail Blazers looking like legitimate title contenders out West, Aldridge will continue to stay near the top of the MVP race.