From 50-point games to dramatic buzzer beaters that end playoff series, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard produced a 2019 to remember.
During his seventh season with the Blazers, Lillard averaged 25.8 points and a career-high 6.9 assists per game. That level of production finally seemed to etch his name alongside the upper-echelon of the NBA stars.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave Lillard his due by ranking him as the fourth-best player of 2019.
Lillard’s case for a top-four finish -- his highest ever -- begins with the series-ending dagger he drilled from 37 feet (officially) to knock out the Thunder and end an era in Oklahoma City, with the subsequent departures of George and Russell Westbrook. Though Lillard wasn’t as singularly dominant in the second round, his threat was key to Portland beating Denver to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000.
Pelton placed the four-time NBA All-Star behind only Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. Directly behind Lillard in ESPN’s rankings: Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Regardless of the Blazers’ overall struggles, Lillard is on track for another career year. Through 34 outings, he is currently averaging 27.2 points and 7.6 assists a game.
You can read Pelton’s entire rankings at ESPN+ (Subscription required).