The Portland Trail Blazers are contemplating shutting down All-Star guard Damian Lillard for the remaining nine games of their season. Lillard has been working through ongoing calf soreness and has played in only four of Portland’s last six games. Shams Charania of The Athletic quotes sources saying the team is “leaning towards” keeping Lillard out for the rest of the season.
Sources: The Portland Trail Blazers are leaning toward shutting down All-Star Damian Lillard for the season’s final nine games. The franchise is seriously considering taking precautions as Lillard deals with calf injury and the team is 3.5 games out of Play-In Tournament race.
Lillard has averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game in 58 appearances for the Blazers this year, adding 4.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists in 36.3 minutes. He has missed 14 games this year, but that pales in comparison to the 53 he missed last season recovering from abdominal surgery.
Portland’s 32-41 record places them 13th in the NBA’s Western Conference, three positions away from competing in the postseason Play-In Tournament to determine the lower seeds in the 2023 NBA Playoffs bracket. The half-dozen teams ahead of Portland all have 37 or 38 losses. The Blazers would need to leapfrog three of the six over their final nine games in order to compete in the tournament.
Conversely, the Blazers own the sixth-worst record in the NBA, tied with the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers with those same 41 losses. Those three teams and the Orlando Magic (43 losses currently) will sort themselves out for the 5th-8th positions in the Draft Lottery drawing. The 8th team will have a 6.7% chance at the coveted #1 overall pick, the 5th seed 10.5%. With presumed generational talent Victor Wembanyama as the prize for this year’s lottery winner, teams that will miss the playoffs have incentive to finish with as few wins as possible.
The small likelihood of making the playoffs, increased likelihood of being promoted to a high lottery pick, and Lillard’s own injury all argue for keeping him off the floor as the season closes.