On this week’s edition of Blazer’s Edge Radio, the discussion centered on the recent exploits of Damian Lillard, who just wrapped up a six-game stretch in which he averaged nearly 50 points per contest. While his torrid play has garnered plenty of national attention, and he will represent the Trail Blazers in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game, the show’s hosts have something bigger in mind.
That’s right, it’s time for Lillard’s name to legitimately enter the Most Valuable Player conversation. For much of the season, that discussion has primarily focused on four names: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, LeBron James and Luka Doncic. Scoring-wise, only Harden (35.8) and Giannis (30.1) are averaging more points per game than Lillard (29.7). His three-point shooting percentage is the highest of the group, as his 39.4% clip from deep is well above the next closest—36% from Harden. In addition, he’s averaging a career-high 7.9 assists per game, the sixth-best mark in the league. Statistically, there’s no question he belongs among those names.
The biggest factor working against Lillard’s candidacy is no doubt Portland’s sub-par record. However, with the addition of Trevor Ariza, the team has started to pick up some positive momentum over the last two weeks. They recently won four straight against current playoff teams, with Lillard outshining both Harden and LeBron in matchups against the Rockets and Lakers, respectively.
It will likely take more than Portland simply making the playoffs for Lillard to have a legitimate chance at the league’s most coveted award. This will not be impossible, but it leaves little room for error, and will require Dame to maintain his exceptional level of play on a night-to-night basis. Portland’s supporting cast will also need to provide consistent production. Even that might not be enough, with the Blazers still 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot and 7.5 behind the seventh-seeded Thunder, with 31 games to play.
Lillard has almost single-handedly kept the Blazers afloat in one of the most trying seasons in franchise history, and his historic stretch has put a sub-.500 team in the national spotlight. Regardless of what happens over the coming months, he’ll certainly be the MVP in the eyes of the Rip City faithful, and that might be all that matters.
Catch an archived version of this week’s show here.
Tune in to Blazer’s Edge Radio LIVE every Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. PT during the NBA season on XRAY FM. The show can be accessed at 107.1 FM in the Portland metro area, as well as worldwide on xray.fm.