Regardless of the Trail Blazers’ struggles as a team, star point guard Damian Lillard produced another eye-popping year of numbers and astonishing play. It appears that Lillard’s work is garnering attention in year-end award voting despite Portland’s sub-500 record.
On Friday, ESPN’s Zach Lowe included Lillard inside his MVP discussion. Here is the order of Lowe’s MVP ballot:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- LeBron James
- James Harden
- Damian Lillard
- Kawhi Leonard
After outlining his decision to place Antetokounmpo over LeBron, Lowe shifted his focus to Lillard’s inclusion at the No. 4 spot on his ballot.
The name that will draw ire is Lillard at No. 4. Portland is 29-37, and there are voters who disqualify players from mediocre teams. That’s fine. I wouldn’t put any such player above No. 4.
When addressing Lillard’s place above second-year phenom Luka Doncic, Lowe explained that Lillard deserved the edge for his ability to carry the Blazers during an injury-plagued season.
Dallas enjoyed mostly good health until Dwight Powell’s injury. The Mavs are deeper, and outscored opponents by almost the same amount regardless of whether Doncic was playing. The Blazers were roadkill without Lillard. These were his game-by-game scoring totals from one scintillating two-week stretch starting in mid-January: 34, 34, 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, 51. No voter should penalize Doncic for having a better, healthier roster around him, but I feel OK rewarding Lillard for carrying a busted one.
Lillard, through 58 contests prior to the hiatus, averaged 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game. Both of those averages represent career-highs for the former Weber State standout.
You can read Lowe’s full story on NBA awards at ESPN.