Damian Lillard knows what he is capable of achieving this season.
The Trail Blazers star is averaging 28.7 points while shooting 44 percent from the floor, and 37.8 percent from three-point range to go along with 4.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists in 35.9 minutes per game. He has a league-best 26 30-point games this season.
Over the past week alone, he’s passed LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki to claim 11th all-time in three-pointers made. One more three-pointer will place him above Jason Kidd in the top 10.
In his eighth season, Lillard is playing arguably the best game of his career, but in a league where big leads go out the window in the blink of an eye, Lillard’s MVP hopes continue to dip in large part to the Trail Blazers recent losses.
After dishing out 28 points and 10 assists as the Blazers fell short, 116-115, to the Celtics at Moda Center on Tuesday night, Lillard was asked about his MVP-sized goals and what it would mean to him to win the prestigious award.
“That’ll be special,” Lillard said. “I think I am having the best season of my career. I think for that to really happen, we gonna have to get ourselves back on the winning track. I think the chances of that happening had been really, really strong when we had got on the road and was winning a lot of games and I was playing well...
Lillard is right. Historically, the MVP award has been given to a player on a winning team.
Portland has dropped 5 of its last 7 games and now holds the third worst defensive rating of all-time, per StatMuse. The Blazers are currently sixth in the West with a 31-23 record, and Portland is 1-8 against teams above them in the Western Conference playoff picture.
There are bound to be ebbs and flows of the NBA season, and Portland has had its fair share of struggles with players like Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum in and out of the lineup, but with those players now healthy, it's time for the Blazers to regain their confidence and discover who they really are as a team.
And if they need a reason to play for with 18 games left, look no further than the team’s leader, Damian Lillard. He deserves it.
“We got to close out really strong for that to be a possibility,” Lillard said. “But it’d be special to be in that company and to achieve something of that level.”