Damian Lillard has joined the NBA MVP conversation. Following a 39-point performance that included 19 in the fourth quarter to defeat the Lakers on Monday, Lillard was listed among USA Today’s weekly top-5 candidates:
5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked
Season stats: 26.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 44.6% shooting
Lillard is posting per-game averages of 32.6 points (on 46.1% shooting), 6.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds during Portland’s seven-game winning streak, He has an average plus-minus of plus-9.4 and has scored a league-high 68 fourth-quarter points. He’s also 9-for-17 from beyond the arc during the final frame — a testament to his status as one of the league’s deadliest crunch-time players.
(voted on by Sam Amick, Jeff Zillgitt, Michael Singer, and AJ Neuharth-Keusch)
Scoring at the second-highest rate of his NBA career, Lillard produces the sixth-most points per game, league-wide, averaging just 0.1 less than Warriors guard and former MVP Stephen Curry, who was not included on USA Today’s list.
Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports also took notice of Lillard today, calling him “the NBA’s fringe MVP candidate on the league’s fringe contender.”
Led by Lillard, the Trail Blazers have now won seven-straight games and hold sole possession of the third seed in the Western Conference with a 38-26 record.