First off, it’s an absolute crime that Damian Lillard wasn’t voted as an All-Star this year. He’s the lead dog on a dynamic backcourt that includes breakout star CJ McCollum. On the year, Lillard is putting up 25.1 points along with 7.2 assists per game. His shooting percentages aren’t great, but he’s been asked to carry the bulk of the load on a team that NOBODY thought would be this good.
After losing four out of five starters via trade or free agency, this was expected to be a rebuilding year for Rip City. Instead, Lillard has thrown the team on his back and Portland is in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The Trailblazers are sixth in the Western Conference but just two games ahead of the ninth place Houston Rockets.
Portland is the hottest team in the NBA not named the Warriors, and their streak is more impressive due to the lack of talent on the roster.
Lillard is doing the most with the least talent around him, a la Tom Brady in the mid 2000’s (not comparing Lillard to God in any way, shape or form, just the situations are similar). With a starting front court consisting of Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu, your team shouldn’t be very good. Each of those players has either disappointed in their time in the league (Vonleh and Plumlee), or is primarily known for their defense (Aminu). Even CJ McCollum wasn’t a proven player until this season, and his numbers could be inflated because he’s in a contract year and he just wants a bigger pay day.
Noah Vonleh scores just 3.7 points per game on a paltry 42% from the field. As for Plumlee, he’s scoring only nine points per game and has career average of 8.4 per game, so you know you’re not getting much out of him. Al-Farouq Aminu is the scorer of the bunch, but he only scores 10.1 points per game and shoots 40% from the field and 34% from deep.
With the lack of scoring options around Lillard, it’s amazing that he’s averaging 7.2 assists per game. Even more surprising, it’s actually a career high for him.
Since a loss to Golden State on January 8th, the Trailblazers are 15-3, with victories over Oklahoma City and Golden State. Currently, they’re on a six game winning streak
In that game against Golden State, Lillard dropped a cool 51 on Steph Curry and made it rain from three, hitting 9/12. Lillard sprayed a couple of threes from at least 25 feet on ridiculous pull-ups. Even more impressive, he recorded six steals, seven assists, and zero turnovers against the best team in the league. Lillard has scored 30+ in five straight, something no Trailblazer has done since 1970.
Lillard has been a fan favorite in Portland since he was drafted as a rookie. He won Rookie of the Year in 2013 and has led the Trailblazers to the playoffs in the last two seasons and has shown that he has ice in his veins with a series winning three against the Houston Rockets.
He deserves some serious MVP consideration with the way that he’s been playing this season. People counted out the Trailblazers before the season even started, and how he has them on the cusp of a postseason birth. And with a convincing win over the Warriors, he and his team will have the utmost confidence come playoff time.
Cover Photo via Bleacher Report