Prestigious NBA media have until the end of the day, May 18th, to turn in their award ballots and Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard should snag a few MVP votes. One of those votes could be coming from resident-Boston Celtics superfan and creator of The Ringer, Bill Simmons.
Simmons said on his podcast released shortly after the conclusion of Sunday’s games,
“If Portland locks in here at six… with all the injuries they’ve had, it’s pretty hard to leave Dame out of the top five. It seemed like at one point the season was completely unraveling and they unlocked it and came back.”
When it gets past the top three picks for the MVP ballot, there’s certain to be a lot of variance between voters. One person who would argue the Dame pick is Bill’s co-host, Ryen Russillo. Russillo asked Bill whether he would put Lillard on the ballot over first-year Phoenix Sun Chris Paul. As the debate wore on, Simmons argued that when picking between two players for MVP, he hypothetically swaps the players and bases his decision on whose team would improve or decline.
Russillo then took his take a step further, stating that he fully believes that the Phoenix Suns would be worse off with Dame than CP3.
The hot take race is leading to increasingly bad analyses
While CP3 is an all-time great, perhaps even the most well-rounded true point guard in history, he’s had his deserving share of roses. NBA media wasn’t always this high on the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon, though.
Through the course of his career, Chris Paul has had his highs and lows in terms of how the media viewed him. Winner, diva, prototype, choker, and injury prone are just a few of the tags that ran alongside Paul’s name in stories. Just through the course of the last few years, the narrative surrounding CP3 went from potential champion if he didn’t get injured on the Houston Rockets to washed and untradeable and back to dark-horse MVP candidate within the span of 4 years.
The latest high he’s riding in the media certainly feels like an over adjustment from when analysts were labeling him as too old, injury prone, and expensive. While he certainly has a quantifiable impact on winning, and a massive one, he’s not more impactful than Damian Lillard at this stage in their careers.
Damian Lillard deserves to be on everybody’s MVP ballot
There’s at least seven players in the league right now with an argument to be included in the top five of an MVP ballot: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard.
According to NBA.com, out of those candidates, Lillard ranks: second in offensive rating, sixth in player impact estimate (calculated by measuring a player’s statistical contributions against the total statistics of a game they played in), fifth in VORP or value over replacement player, second in win shares, and fifth in player efficiency rating. The advanced stats clearly say that Lillard should be at least fifth in MVP voting this year.
For comparison, Chris Paul ranks in those respective categories: sixth, seventh, sixth, fourth, and seventh.
The eye test and traditional stats tell the same story. CP3 does an incredible amount of things on the court that will never be recorded in a box score or in advanced stats but positively impact the win column. That being said, no matter how great his leadership or IQ is, they cannot trump the sheer dominance Lillard displayed on the court this season.
Dame put up 28.8 points and 7.5 assists per game, slashing 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from deep, and 93 percent from the stripe, all while dealing with a roster riddled with injuries and being blitzed off screens more times than any other player in the league. Not to mention that in head-to-head matchups this season, Dame went off for 31.7 points per game while holding Paul to just 15.7.
Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns had an amazing year, better than what anybody could have expected. But to say that he’s more valuable and impactful than Damian Lillard is ludicrous. To say that the Phoenix Suns would be worse off with Dame than CP3, is a freezing cold take. Luckily, Russillo does not have a vote.