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Zach Lowe Votes Damian Lillard 5th on MVP Ballot

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ESPN’s NBA expert casts his vote for NBA awards.

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Damian Lillard has long had dreams about winning the NBA’s MVP award, and while his season with the Portland Trail Blazers won’t be enough this year, he’s in the conversation below front-runner James Harden. Lillard’s blistering January and February led him into an All-Star selection, and his play helped Portland sustain its 13-game win streak.

Given Lillard’s accomplishments this season, Zach Lowe of ESPN places him fifth for MVP:

The last spot came down to Lillard, Kevin Durant, Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, the Toronto guards, and Nikola Jokic, keeping Denver alive to the last moment. (Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler missed a few too many games.) I’d be fine with almost any of them. Durant is the best of those players, and was my initial choice -- a well-rounded superstar who will log almost 70 games for the championship co-favorite.

But Golden State is 7-10 in its past 17 games, lost without Curry, now behind Toronto in the overall standings. Portland is slumping too, but Lillard dragged them to a winner-take-all showdown with Utah on Wednesday for the No. 3 seed. Portland has been toast all season when Lillard sits. He is their lifeline, and he snags the last spot here.

Lillard earned his third All-Star selection this season after missing out on the prestigious game for two years. He’s averaging 26.8 points (second-best in his career), 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game entering the season’s last game against the Utah Jazz.

You can read the rest of Lowe’s award votes here. Head coach Terry Stotts doesn’t earn a spot on his Coach of the Year ballot, but he does get a brief mention about it being unfair he and others will get left off.