The MVP race in the National Basketball Association has never been this wide open.
With under two months remaining until the playoffs, no player has separated themselves from the pack as the front runner. Now, the two players most likely to have won it, Joel Embiid and LeBron James, are both injured and will miss time indefinitely.
LeBron suffered a high ankle sprain last Saturday. The games he will miss will hurt his chances. The games the Lakers lose with their best player being Dennis Schroeder will doom his candidacy, unless the backchannel campaigning is just that strong.
With Embiid and James both likely out of the running, that leaves many other candidates with a path toward winning the 2020-21 Most Valuable Player Award, including Damian Lillard.
With LeBron's injury, Lillard's odds for MVP went from +2500 to +1400, odds provided by our partner PointsBet.
The Trail Blazers currently occupy the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, the Blazers are just 2.0 games behind the Lakers who will miss both Lebron and Anthony Davis for the foreseeable future.
The 25-17 record comes after the Blazers were without CJ McCollum for two months and starting center Jusuf Nurkic for even longer. With them both out, and the Blazers second-best player being either Carmelo Anthony or Gary Trent Jr., Lillard led the Blazers to a 14-11 record.
Now, McCollum is back in the lineup with Nurkic not far behind. The Trail Blazers should be able to rise up the standings with its second and third best players back in the rotation.
On top of the narrative, Lillard has the stats to back up an MVP campaign: 30.6 points per game (2nd in the NBA) 7.7 assists per game (10th in the NBA), 27.33 PER (4th in the NBA) on 63.2% true shooting (19th in the NBA). He's not only putting up insane box score stats, but he is doing it on a winning team in an efficient manner.
Among point guards, Lillard is 95th percentile in usage and 98th percentile in points per shot per Cleaning the Glass.
Lillard is so good, the NBA's third-best five-man lineup in terms of net rating to have played at least 200 minutes together is Dame, Trent Jr., Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Enes Kanter. That lineup outscores opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions.
The winning record with Nurkic and CJ out is not the only narrative Dame has going for him, either. His greatest asset to getting the media to vote for him is his insane, cheat code-like clutch stats.
After last Tuesday's 50-point performance against New Orleans, in which the Blazers came back from 17-down with under six minutes remaining behind Dame's 20 fourth-quarter points, Lillard led the league with 124 clutch points. Since then, Lillard closed another game versus Dallas where he scored another four clutch points
In the clutch, which is defined by the NBA as the final five minutes of a game with a point differential of five or fewer, he is shooting 58.7% from the field (27-63), 48.5% from 3-point range (16-of-33) and 100% from the foul line (38-of-38). Don't forget Russell Westbrook won his 2017 MVP award largely because of his unreal clutch performance. With the race so tight this season, Lillard's highlights in the clutch can catapult him to be the front runner by the season's end.
In fact, in the latest NBA.com MVP ladder, Lillard had risen to No. 2 in the standings behind just Nikola Jokic.
Jokic has had a great season himself, but the Nuggets have had less injuries and have the same record as the Trail Blazers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will not win a third-straight MVP after flaming out of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The media will not reward him for that.
James Harden has a good claim to the MVP award but he also actively sabotaged the entire Houston Rockets franchise for months.
Luka Doncic's team has a worse record than Portland and lost the season series to the Trail Blazers.
Steph Curry also got injured this past week.
Right now it appears to be Jokic vs. Lillard with the odds getting better and better for Lillard.