Damian Lillard has had a tremendous 2020-21 NBA season for the Portland Trail Blazers. His impressive performances have been great for coach Terry Stotts' team, who currently sit six games clear of ninth spot in the Western Conference standings.
Lillard has been getting a lot of recognition for his stellar season and is also being discussed as one of the candidates to win the 2020-21 NBA MVP award.
Damian Lillard's strong case for the Kia NBA MVP Award
Led by Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers are currently sixth in the Western Conference standings with a win-loss record of 29-18. While the team's current seeding might not seem impressive, they sit just a game and a half behind the LA Clippers, who are third in the Western Conference standings.
Lillard is currently averaging 29.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 7.8 assists in the 2020-21 NBA campaign with 44.7/37.9/94.3 shooting splits.
But why is Lillard one of the prime contenders to win the NBA MVP award? Let's take a more in-depth look at the reasons why Lillard should win the 2020-21 NBA MVP award.
#1 - Reliable in the clutch
"Clutch time" in basketball is the final five minutes of a game where the score is within five points. Damian Lillard is the most reliable player in the clutch in the NBA today. His ability to close out games has been huge for the Portland Trail Blazers this season.
Lillard leads the NBA with five points per game in the clutch. In 27 games, and the guard has posted 56/44/100 shooting splits in clutch time, which is seriously impressive.
#2 - Lillard's incredible scoring
Damian Lillard ranks second in the 2020-21 NBA season in points per game with 29.8 and is the league leader in 30-point games with 26 so far. Lillard's 44.7/37.9/94.3 shooting splits are also stellar for a volume scorer who primarily shoots jumpers rather than attacking the rim. Lillard's 94.3 free-throw percentage ranks second in the entire NBA and is his career-best so far.
The six-time All-Star is also tied with Joel Embiid and Bradley Beal with five 40-point games - the most in the 2020-21 NBA season. Moreover, he is one of seven players with at least one 50-point game this season.
#3 - Leading a short-handed team
Even though the Portland Trail Blazers have kept pace with the best teams in the Western Conference, the team has not had an easy campaign so far.
Starters C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic have missed 25 and 32 games, respectively, due to injuries. Despite missing two-thirds of the team's core, the Blazers are in a comfortable spot in the Western Conference standings, primarily due to Lillard's incredible performances.
In 24 games without McCollum and Nurkic, Lillard has averaged 31 points and 8.5 assists with 45/39/99 shooting splits. The Portland Trail Blazers went 13-11 in that stretch, which was good considering they played without two of the best players on the roster.
Now, with McCollum and Nurkic returning to the starting lineup, the Portland Trail Blazers could be poised to make a solid run and close the regular season with a place in the West's top-four.
#4 - Impressive durability
Joel Embiid and LeBron James are among those vying for the NBA MVP award. But the duo has missed plenty of games through injury, while Lillard has played 45 of the Portland Trail Blazers' 47 games so far at an elite level.
Though Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets might have an advantage over Lillard at the moment, the race should be close until the final game of the regular season.
His availability has been as good as his ability in the 2020-21 NBA season, and to see him lead the official Kia NBA MVP ladder soon will not be a surprise to anyone.
The upcoming schedule for Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers is not easy. They face the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers and Utah Jazz in their next three games.
Later this month, they will be on a six-game road trip and in early May they will face the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers. The next five weeks will be a litmus test for Damian Lillard's MVP candidacy.
He has been overlooked in recent MVP races, especially in 2018-19 where he averaged 25.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game. He led the Trail Blazers to third in the Western Conference standings that season, but could only finish sixth in the MVP race.
Lillard is poised to beat his fourth-place finish in the 2017-18 MVP race this season. But can he push further and sway the votes in his favor in the final stretch of the season to win the NBA MVP award? Only time will tell.