With Another All-NBA Honor, Lillard's Status Among The Elite Is No Longer In Question

by Casey Holdahl
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While fans of the Trail Blazers developed a healthy admiration for Damian Lillard almost immediately after the 6-3 guard was selected with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, it's taken a bit more time for him to earn the respect his skills warrant from a national perspective. That's not to say he wasn't appreciated early in his career -- after all, he was a unanimous selection for Rookie of the Year and was named All-NBA Third Team after his sophomore season -- but for a while, there seemed to be some skepticism regarding his status among the elite in the NBA.

But that sentiment has changed over the last 12 months, starting with Lillard being one of just five players name All-NBA First Team for the 2017-18 season. Then, after seemingly being on the cusp every year in terms of making the All-Star Team, Lillard was a shoe-in for the 2019 midseason exhibition, held this year in Charlotte. And in leading the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000, Lillard proved without a doubt that he deserves to have his name included among the top guards in the NBA.

And now he has another award to prove it.

Thanks to leading the Trail Blazers to a 53-win season with averages of 25.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals, Lillard has been named to the All-NBA Second Team, his fourth All-NBA honor and his second Second Team selection. He now joins Clyde Drexler as the only players in franchise history to be named to at last four All-NBA teams.

Golden State's Stephen Curry and Houston's James Harden were named All-NBA First Team guards. Boston's Kyrie Irving joins Lillard as the other guard on the Second Team while Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Charlotte's Kemba Walker were named to the Third Team. 

Lillard was one of four players in the NBA to average at least 25.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists this season (Devin Booker, James Harden and LeBron James being the other three) and joined Oscar Robertson and James as the only three players in NBA history to have at least 1,500 points and 400 assists in each of their first seven NBA seasons.

Not only did Lillard establish himself as one of the best guards in the NBA this season, he also strengthened his claim to be considered one of the greatest Trail Blazers in franchise history. He moved into second in franchise history in scoring this season despite being 10th in games. He's first all-time in three-pointers, second in free throws, third in assists and field goals and fifth in minutes played.

While his career numbers entering the 2018-19 season already made a strong case for his inclusion as one of the great players in team history, leading the Blazers to just their seventh Western Conference Finals ended what little debate there might have been about Lillard's franchise bona fides.

Between being named to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2018-19 season and making All-NBA First Team in 2017-18, Lillard is now eligible to sign a four-year, $191 million "super max" contract. All indications are that the team intends to offer Lillard the extension at some point this summer, which would keep Lillard signed through the 2024-25 season, and baring some change of heart -- when asked at exit interviews, Lillard said he didn't know "why that's a question" whether he'd be interested in such a contract -- he intends to sign it.

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