It’s been Dame o’clock a lot lately. Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard lifted his team to another big win in crunch time on Wednesday vs. the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring 43 points with 16 assists, including the game-winning And-1 layup with 16.5 seconds left.
Many believed that the Blazers would struggle dealing with injuries to multiple regulars. Dame has clearly believed in himself and the team, and the results are clear during a six-game winning streak. This has led to a big jump in Dame’s odds to win MVP. We’re going to dissect if he has a realistic shot at winning the award.
Over the course of said streak, Lillard is averaging 32.3 points, 9.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds. His shooting splits are pretty solid, coming in at 43.5 percent from the floor, 38.2 from beyond the arc and a clutch 92.3 from the charity stripe. Dame has moved up to third in the NBA in scoring on the season at 29.8 points per game and is eyeing Stephen Curry at No. 2 (30 points per game). Dame has the fifth-highest offensive rating (120.0) among players to play at least 20 games. He’s also top 10 in assist percentage at 34.8. Lillard isn’t just scoring but he’s facilitating better than he has his entire career.
So let’s get into the odds a bit. On Wednesday night before the Blazers took down the Pels, Lillard’s MVP odds were set at 25/1 on DraftKings Sportsbook. This morning they were down to 20/1. Lillard took a massive jump for a number of reasons. The most notable is what he’s been doing with Portland shorthanded. The Blazers haven’t had Jusuf Nurkic or CJ McCollum since the middle of January, so around one month. Since the Blazers had two games postponed around that time, the team is 10-4. Portland is now up to 4th place in the West at 18-10 overall.
We’re seeing a clear trend in how the MVP odds adjust. When the Los Angeles Lakers went on their long winning streak, LeBron James’ odds to win MVP were boosted and now he’s the favorite. Might we see Dame make a similar move if this continues? Now would be the time to get in on the odds. Unless the Blazers start to struggle and Lillard’s production tails off, there’s no reason to believe his MVP odds won’t continue to move up. Even if McCollum returns, those two have co-existed for many seasons in the same backcourt with Dame averaging at high clips.
Part of me still believes that the oddsmakers are off a bit. The MVP race seems a lot closer than the odds suggest. Here’s a quick look at the top of the board for reference:
LeBron James +170
Joel Embiid +500
Nikola Jokic +500
Stephen Curry +1200
Luka Doncic +1200
Giannis Antetokounmpo +1400
Kevin Durant +1600
Damian Lillard +2000
So just breaking this down really fast, we can eliminate Giannis and Durant from this equation. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are struggling too much and Giannis isn’t playing near the level he was the past two season when he won back-to-back MVPs. Durant has been sidelined too many games otherwise he’d have a legit case, though you can debunk it pretty quickly by pointing out he’s playing with Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
Stephen Curry is an interesting case. The Warriors are playing better and he’s been playing at a high level. Has he been playing at a higher level than Dame? Probably not. Are the Warriors in better shape than the Blazers? Nope. Dame should surpass Curry in MVP odds at some point if Lillard can keep this up.
Luka Doncic was on sort of a similar path as Dame with the Dallas Mavericks playing better. Luka was carrying the team and putting up gaudy 40-point triple-double type of numbers. The Mavs have since slowed down and the Blazers and Dame even took a game from them. Doncic has a lot of work to do and doesn’t have the media’s back right now.
Jokic and Embiid both still have strong cases, though the Denver Nuggets aren’t having the type of season you’d expect from a team with an MVP candidate. Jokic is hurt by the Nuggets underperforming and Embiid is hurt by the fact that he has another All-Star on his team and a Hall of Fame coach in Doc Rivers. Both players have lost steam gradually over the past couple of weeks. That trend could continue, leaving the door open for Dame.
It appears to be LeBron’s MVP to lose at this point. Can he lose it? Of course. The Lakers are more concerned about winning another championship than LeBron winning MVP. With AD sidelined, the Lakers could start to struggle a bit more unless James carries them, like he has in the past. If that doesn’t happen and the Blazers keep moving up in the West, Lillard will have every opportunity to steal the MVP this season. I’m beginning to believe he can actually do it after Wednesday night.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA/MI), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (NH/CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-888-532-3500 (VA) or call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN).21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.