Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is posting the best statistical season of his career in 2022-23. After spending much of the prior year on the shelf, Lillard has played 56 games, posting averages of 32.4 points, 7.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in 36.3 minutes per game. He’s shooting a career-high 46.7% from the field, plus 37.7% from the three-point arc while drawing 9.5 free throws per game. Those numbers aren’t just records for Portland. They put him among the NBA leaders for the season, the elite of the elite.
That’s not even counting the 15 games of 40 or more points Lillard has produced this season, including a 50-point performance on January 12th against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 60-point effort on January 25th against the Utah Jazz, and a massive 71-point spree pasted on the Houston Rockets on February 26th...among the Top 12 scoring performances in NBA history.
Despite Lillard’s heroics, the Trail Blazers’ 31-39 record seems likely to keep them out of postseason contention. But the playoffs aren’t the only measure of success. Lillard seems destined for league-wide honors this year. It’s a matter of which, not whether.
That’s the question we want to put before you today. With a dozen games remaining, Lillard could receive consideration for any of the awards below. Where do you think he’ll finish? Does he have a serious shot at any or all?
Lillard’s per-game average of 32.4 points leaves him third in the NBA, behind Luka Doncic with 33.0 and league-leader Joel Embiid with 33.5. Both attempt more shots per game than Lillard and shoot a higher percentage (50.0% for Doncic, 54.5% for Embiid versus 46.7% for Lillard) but neither comes close to Lillard’s 11.4 three-point attempts per game. Lillard also has no competition for shots on his team and, increasingly, no obvious path forward to the playoffs. That, and Lillard’s propensity to put up points 40 at a time, might allow him to make a late run.
For perspective, Lillard trails Embiid and Doncic by 63 and 64 total points scored this season. Embiid has played 56 games, Doncic 57. Lillard can’t make up ground simply by passing them on that mark, as scoring titles are counted per game, not by aggregate points. He’d need to exceed their averages by roughly 5 points per game over the remaining 12 to make up the necessary ground.
Lillard will almost certainly make one of the All-NBA Teams this year as a guard, but which one? Doncic has just as much notoriety and his team has a better record. Ja Morant was serious competition before his recent PR disaster. Shae Gilgeous-Alexander and Donovan Mitchell are also having banner years, while De’Aaron Fox has led the Sacramento Kings into a high playoffs seed.
If team success matters to voters, Lillard may suffer compared to some of his counterparts. Considering stats, charisma, and reputation, only Doncic comes close. In a packed field, anything can happen. It’ll be interesting to see where the numbers game leaves Dame.
Fans in arenas across the league chant, “M-V-P” when their favored superstar takes the foul line. Considering Lillard’s huge free throw rate, there’s been a ton of chanting for him this season.
Despite the noise, few players actually have a chance to earn the distinction. Realistically, Lillard probably doesn’t either. Voters tend to weigh all considerations, including team success and uniqueness. As chronicled in the categories above, Lillard will have a hard time standing out in either of those areas.
This may be the first year Lillard receives serious votes, though. His historic performances are impossible to ignore. They’ve come with defenses draped all over him, leaving observers agape in wonder. Lillard’s loyalty to the Trail Blazers and his humble, personality-filled interviews in the press have buffed his image this year. Those considerations may lift him even higher than his stats would indicate.
So make the call, Dear Readers. Where will Lillard finish in the NBA scoring race, which All-NBA Team will he be named to, and where will he stand in the MVP voting order when all is said and done? The comment section is open below.