Damian Lillard’s ever-growing story as a cerebral closer and feared offensive gamebreaker wasn’t in question heading into Sunday’s All-Star Game. But ask those around him, and they’ll tell you he certainly added a chapter to that legend. CBS Sports columnist Brad Botkin dedicated a piece to the Portland Trail Blazers star, and chronicled what his All-Star performance means in the short and long-term.
Botkin has no shortage of praise for the Portland guard. From Stephen Curry’s faith in Lillard’s 40-foot clincher to Paul George finally admitting that Lillard’s series capper “wasn’t a bad shot.” Despite those mended fences, Botkin thinks that Lillard’s omission in the All-Star Most Valuable Player race could be a presage of what’s to come during the NBA’s league awards.
“It’s perhaps a bit of unfortunate foreshadowing that Lillard was overlooked for All-Star MVP, as there’s a pretty good shot he’ll get a raw deal a few months from now in regular-season MVP voting. What he’s done in leading the Blazers, without CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, to a 21-14 first-half record should have him no lower than second on anyone’s board. But oh how we love Nikola Jokic’s advanced stats on a Denver team with a worse record despite having a far healthier roster.”
For Lillard’s case as the game’s most “valuable” player, most experts are pointing to what he’s doing with the game on the line. Botkin hit on what Lillard has been doing this year, what it means for his legacy — he’s hit an NBA-high 29 game-winning or game-tying shots since entering the league — and took it a step further with Lillard’s clutch numbers.
“And that’s just the start. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that when the Blazers are losing or tied inside the final five minutes of a game within five points, Lillard is shooting 70 percent from the field (19-for-27) and 69 percent from 3-point land (9-for-13). Go even deeper, and Lillard is 7-for-9 from the field, including 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, with four seconds or fewer on the shot clock in these clutch situations.”
It’s become obvious that everyone doesn’t share in Botkin’s conviction, that Lillard should be “no lower than second” in the NBA race. But nearly everyone in the league appreciates what Lillard has done to further stretch the limits of defensive strategy with his accuracy from deep range, where, as Botkin notes, Lillard has gone 10-of-16 from the 35-to-39 foot range.
Steph knew it was over— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 8, 2021
He started waving goodbye before Dame pulled up from half court pic.twitter.com/T8cisFf57F
At this point, it’s a part of his legacy and how he will be remembered. Botkin gives Lillard his flowers while he’s in his prime with this piece. For those interested, the story can be found here.