Inexplicably Damian Lillard was not an all-star this year. However, on Saturday night he reminded us all that he is an superstar. Lillard scored 40 points and dished out 10 assists as his Blazers upset the defending champs in Portland. These type of performances have become routine for Lillard, as he has dragged his team deep into the postseason, during a year most experts had Portland languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Part of the reason Lillard was snubbed during the all-star voting was Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s farewell tour hijacked the fans vote, filling up one of the spots for the sake of sentimentality. I actually have no problem with this Kobe deserved his last all-star berth for his 20 years service to the league and Lillard will surely be an all-star for years to come. What will be interesting to see is where Lillard comes in the MVP voting.
Voting for awards such as MVP in basketball or the PFA and FWA player of the year in the Premiership has always seemed to me linked more to the success of the the team than the individual. Had Leicester City suffered an injury to N’Golo Kante causing a slip out of title contention, through no fault of Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy, would the award have gone instead to a star of the team who looked likely to win it? Perhaps Harry Kane at Spurs, Sergio Aguero at City or dare I even say it, Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.
The same argument holds for this season’s MVP voting in the NBA. Steph Curry will win and rightly so, he has been the best player in the league on possibly the best team ever. What voters will do with the remaining 4 places on their ballet remains to be seen. I expect a heavy bias will go to players like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Superstars who had good seasons on successful teams. Draymond Green will probably get the odd nod too, for his importance to the Warriors at both ends of the floor. However, I imagine Damian Lillard’s name will be absent from most ballots.
Lillard has led his Portland team further than anyone could have possibly imagined. In my opinion what Lillard has achieved, getting the Blazers the number 5 seed in the West as well as past the Clippers in round 1, is as impressive if not more so than Westbrook, Durant and James’ seasons. Surely leading a team, who nobody expected to be playing in May, to a degree of postseason success should be rewarded.
Sure Westbrook, Durant and James have had outstanding seasons but have they really elevated their teams to anything wildly beyond expectations? In OKC Durant and Westbrook led their squad to exactly where they were expected to be, the same could be said of James in Cleveland. Lillard has done what few thought possible and for that he should be acknowledged on MVP ballots.