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Damian Lillard Could Be Dark Horse MVP Contender Next Season

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Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated looks at Lillard’s MVP prospects.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard finished sixth in NBA MVP voting after the 2018-19 season. He earned his fourth All-Star appearance and second All-NBA Second Team honor behind averages of 25.8 ppg, 6.9 apg and 4.6 rpg. Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated looked at Lillard’s MVP potential next season, putting the guard among his dark horse contenders:

Lillard will need to go absolutely nuclear from beyond the arc next season to win the MVP given Portland’s tenuous standing in the West. The Blazers don’t have any reliable perimeter options outside of Dame and C.J. McCollum, and the Hassan Whiteside experience could prove truly harrowing. The seven or eight seed is just as likely as a top-two spot in the West.

The talent around Lillard is worrisome, but his production could ultimately prove overwhelming in a crowded field. The four-time All-Star canned 237 threes last season while averaging 25.8 points per game. Raising his workload could land him in the 300 threes, 30 PPG club, a feat achieved only by Curry in 2015-16 and Harden in 2018-19. Curry won the MVP and Harden finished in second. Lillard will slide into the top three if he matches their historic campaigns.

Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is another dark horse that Shapiro makes a case for. You can read more from Shapiro’s early look at MVP contenders here.