LITTLE MEN, BIG LEAGUE
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant. All big men, all former NBA MVPs. But what about the little(ish) guys? A guard hasn’t won MVP since the 2016-2017 season and even though that wasn’t very long ago. It’s too long of a wait. Names like Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, and Kyrie Irving come to mind. This year, there is a strong case for Damian Lillard as MVP.
As this article is being written, the NBA has played between 45 and 47 games depending on the team. The Portland Trail Blazers are 29-18 and sitting in sixth in the Western Conference. However, what the record doesn’t reflect is the stellar play the Blazers are getting from their star point guard Damian Lillard. Lillard currently sits second in the league in terms of points scored per game, behind only Bradley Beal. In statistical terms, Lillard is having the best season of his career.
Historically speaking, except for Russell Westbrook’s triple-double season, Lillard is averaging numbers that past guards had averaged when they won their MVP awards:
- 2017-2018 James Harden: 30.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 8.8 APG
- 2016-2017 Russell Westbrook: 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG
- 2015-2016 Stephen Curry: 30.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 6.7 APG
- 2014-2015 Stephen Curry: 23.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.7 APG
- 2010-2011 Derrick Rose: 25.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.7 APG
During the 2020-2021 season, Lillard is averaging 29.8 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 7.8 assists per game. League-wide injuries to top stars have left the door open for the “Damian Lillard for MVP” campaign to make headway.
BASKETS IN BUNCHES
One of the more intriguing factors of Lillard’s game is his ability to score. Out of the 44 games Lillard has played this season, he has scored at least 30 points in 25 of those contests. Sure, injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic could contribute to Lillard carrying most of the load. Alternatively, trading for Norman Powell, who is having a breakout season, could also contribute to Lillard potentially having a dip in production. One thing is for sure though, Lillard continues to be the first scoring option for the Blazers.
LILLARD VS. THE LEAGUE
Let’s step away from Lillard for a moment and examine some of the names floating around the league in terms of MVP-talk. As per usual, LeBron James (25.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.9 APG), whose name always seems to pop up in the conversation. James is having an average season, but his Lakers currently sit third in the western conference. Another strong candidate is the Mavericks guard Luka Doncic. Doncic (28.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 9.0 APG) is having arguably the most balanced season for a guard this year. Finally, two-time defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 6.3 APG) looks to be on track to three-peat. The NBA is a league full of the brightest stars in the sky, all vying to be this year’s Polaris, aka the North Star.
WHY IT SHOULD BE LILLARD
Since he has been in the league, he’s had many detractors. However, without Lillard, the Blazers wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are. Everyone should now be a big believer in the “Damian Lillard for MVP” campaign.
Lillard makes the most sense for this year’s award. When you put Lillard up against all the guards from this season, Lillard is arguably outplaying all of them. The only uphill battle Lillard has to climb is all the big men in the NBA. Between James, Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and a healthy Joel Embiid, the competition will only get better as the season heads towards the playoffs.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Damian Lillard for MVP is a real possibility. Whether you want to believe it or not. Forget the All-Star Game starting spot snub. Forget the injuries on the Blazers and the rest of the league. This season Lillard has shown time and time again why he is one of the most feared shooters in the league and isn’t afraid to drive the lane, elevate, and finish at the cup. Don’t be surprised if when the dust settles, it’s Logo Lillard hoisting Maurice Podoloff Trophy. After all, he says it best himself, “It’s Dame Time.”