On NBA.com’s Kia MVP ladder preview, Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard cracked the list of players to watch. What can he do next week to get off on the right foot?
After a scintillating individual run that pushed his Portland Trail Blazers into the Playoffs, expectations have heightened for Damian Lillard. The superstar point guard doubled as both (arguably) the NBA’s most successful point guard and rapper in 2019-20. And for his encore performance, figuratively speaking, some are projecting him to be in contention for a new label.
The 2020-21 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player.
NBA.com’s Sekou Smith ran through a list of 20 players that should have the best chance to win the award. Though the list wasn’t in order, Lillard’s name was among the first mentioned, behind just Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis in the “fresh faces and first timers” category.
Four games in, Lillard has yet to last season’s form consistently, which is no indictment of him. It’s been a bit more up than down, but his numbers are beginning to round into form. Thus far, averaging 23.0 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game on 40.0 percent from the field, 28.9 percent from 3-point range, and 92.6 percent from the charity stripe this year.
Wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets, two of the Western Conference’s top four teams last season, will go a long way towards his candidacy this year. As Smith mentioned, the Portland Trail Blazers will need to win more games for him to have a chance.
The anticipated, official Kia MVP ladder doesn’t kick off until next week. But in thinking about the respect Lillard commands from the national audience and writers leaguewide, it’s certainly calming that he will be a part of the list from the jump.
The Blazers’ upcoming schedule should allow Lillard a chance to percolate. Portland’s next five opponents are a combined 10-10, and none of them were Playoff qualifiers last season. Of that group — the Warriors twice, then the Bulls, Kings, and Timberwolves — Damian Lillard averaged 43.7, 20.5, and 24.5 points respectively against them.