The NBA released its annual GM survey results last Thursday. In this GM survey, one Portland Trail Blazers guard was consistent in his place among the most valuable players in the league. This isn’t to say Damian Lillard hasn’t already received plenty of recognition as one of the league's best.
Lillard, being selected the previous two years to represent the Trail Blazers in the NBA All-Star game has also been selected among the All-NBA teams the previous two years as well. 2017-18 finishing with All-NBA first-team honors, then 2018-19 finishing with All-NBA second-team honors.
In the previous two seasons, Lillard has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting as well. Two years ago, First-Team Lillard average 27 points, with nearly seven assists per game. The 2017-18 Portland Trail Blazers finished with just 49 wins, still good for a top 3-seed in the Western Conference.
Last year while averaging a bit less per game in scoring, Blazer fans did see an uptick in assists per game from Lillard going from 6.6 assists per game to seven assists a game. Now with more shooters surrounding Lillard, it’s fair to say Lillard could again improve in total assists per game.
Although Lillard failed to reach a similar scoring average this previous season, the Blazers won the most regular-season games since the organizations rebuild following the 2014-15 season.
We’ve seen time and time again that team success is a large factor when a consensus is made on things like All-Star recognition and MVP honors. That’s why this year’s MVP award will be Lillard’s to be had.
Following the Trail Blazers most successful regular season in five years and most successful postseason in two decades the Trail Blazers spoke clearly in how valuable they see Lillard after signing him to a $196 million super-max contract at the moment they had the ability to do so last summer.
Now, as the season begins, the Blazers are once again among the overlooked teams expected to take a step back in the loaded Western Conference. Bringing in a new supporting cast this offseason, the Blazers are replacing seven role players from last year’s team.
After being slotted by Vegas predictions for 46.5 wins this upcoming season, Lillard is in a primed position to not just beat those Vegas odds but make a run at the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.
As media pundits point to Hassan Whiteside and argue he can’t regain his 2016-17 form where he averaged 17 points per game and 14 rebounds a game, Lillard reached out to Whiteside to establish the foundation that will carry over to the season.
Trail Blazer fans have seen players come to Portland before labeled something along the lines of lazy or not-engaged in team success, (see the story of disgruntled Jusuf Nurkic in Denver before being traded to the Blazers) only to succeed under a coach like Terry Stotts but also next to a player like Lillard.
In order for Lillard to have a real shot at an MVP award, he would need to average something similar to 28 points a game while averaging at least seven assists and six rebounds a game. The true decider will be what this year’s Portland Trail Blazer team can do in an 82 game season. If the Trail Blazers can win somewhere close to 56 games, that would put them over their Vegas predictions two years in a row by double digits.
Although it’s tough to see the Blazers succeeding in such fashion, collecting that many wins would surely see the Trail Blazers finishing among the top two seeds in theWest. Players like Whiteside will have contributed enough and Lillard would receive the bulk of the credit propelling this championship-contending team.
Lillard, on Thursday, was voted the NBA’s best leader according to all NBA GM’s. Will this be the season he is recognized as the NBA’s MVP?
Comment your predictions for this upcoming Blazers season.