Revisiting the national media’s predictions for the 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

No. 4: ClutchPoints predicts Damian Lillard finishes top-3 in MVP voting

If there’s ever been a statistical glass ceiling to hit, Damian Lillard showed us the one over the last couple of years.

Dating back to 2015-16, the first season in which he officially jumped from the passenger seat to the driver’s side of Portland’s franchise, Lillard quietly chugged along for four seasons, averaging no fewer than 25 points per game, but no higher than 27. His assists per game ranged as high as 6.9 per game, but no lower than 5.9. That consistency was rewarded, but never fully appreciated; not with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry punching similar weights for more successful franchises.

And then came 2019-20. Through more necessity than preference, Lillard found an extra gear. Don’t look now, but he’s doing something you don’t normally see from a player on the doorstep of 30 — he’s still climbing new peaks.

You put his 28.9 points and 7.8 assists on a 61.9 true shooting percentage, numbers only one other player in NBA history has ever produced, on any other Blazers team, and he’s probably right there for top-3 respect.

You could still definitely make the case, especially if you begin to skew the definition of the word “valuable.” I’ve long argued that if availability is the best ability, Lillard’s been the most valuable point guard in the NBA for the last couple seasons, without regret.

Expectations were that, anchored by the confidence of finally having a semi-breakthrough, Lillard would use the increase in national attention to jump into the top three in the Most Valuable Player voting. ClutchPoints contributor Pablo Songco made that bold prediction, later saying that he would likely be outside of that, when all was said and done.

To little fault of his own, he’s probably outside of that. Any Most Valuable Player award list probably runs through LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo first, and then James Harden and Luka Doncic next. Basketball Reference’s tracker has him outside of the top-10 altogether, likely a byproduct of Portland’s 29-37 record.

Next. Portland Trail Blazers: Can Gary Trent Jr. win 6th Man of the Year in 2021?. dark

One’s left to wonder: if Portland were 40-26 like they were at this point last season or 2017-18, or 44-22 as they were in 2014-15, how seismic the shift changes in Lillard’s favor. The stars have aligned for him to have a Hall of Fame career already. It’s a shame we can’t see this prediction play itself out, though.