|Aldridge is posting career-highs in points and rebounds per game this season, and is averaging a double-double to boot|
Not many teams in the NBA are having as good a season as the Portland Trail Blazers are having. Terry Stotts' team has nearly won as many games this year (28) in 37 tries as it did all of last year (33) in 82 tries in a disappointing season without a playoff appearance. Tied for second place in the West with the Thunder, 1.5 games behind the Spurs, the Blazers are in prime contention for having homecourt advantage throughout this spring's playoffs.
The reasons why this iteration of the Trail Blazers has been good so far in the 2013-14 campaign are varied and hard to pinpoint.
The roster is a little different than it was a year ago, as Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, little-used Earl Watson and some rookies have been added to the mix, but it is not drastically different enough to warrant taking full responsibility for Portland's transformation.
That means it is probably due to improved play from the team's returning core guys, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Damian Lillard, who have all stepped up this year.
However, not one player on the Blazers is as important to this squad's success than Aldridge, who is scoring over 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds per game, both of which are career-bests.
Drafted by Chicago with the second-overall pick–behind Andrea Bargnani–in the 2006 draft out of Texas and traded to Portland on Draft night, Aldridge has been a true workhorse in his eighth NBA season. He has anchored the interior on both offense and defense.
With his contract expiring after next year, the power forward recently expressed some interest in re-signing with the Blazers even after a few years of speculation that he would leave the Pacific Northwest and find safe passage on a superstar-laden team of the East.
Although no extension has been signed yet, Aldridge wanting to stay in Portland is incredibly good news for Stotts and his team, since the level of success the Blazers have had so far certainly wouldn't be as great without LaMarcus putting up double-doubles night after night.
For a team that has not made the playoffs since 2011 — losing in the 1st round to the Mavericks — some stability and a committed big man just might be the thing needed to turn the proverbial corner, and possibly lead to a Western Conference championship.