Lowe: 'Damian Lillard Is Fourth On My MVP Ballot'
At some point, the 2019-20 NBA season will either continue on in some extremely limited fashion or be cancelled all together. There's little clarity right now regarding which of those two options is the most likely, which is understandable considering it has proven difficult to predict how the coronavirus pandemic is going to play out over the coming weeks and months, but at some point, one of those two things is going to happen.
After it's decided how the 2019-20 season will end, the NBA will move on to handing out hardware for post-season awards. A disappointing season will almost surely result in members of the Trail Blazers missing out on most of those accolades, though Damian Lillard, who has averaged 28.9 points on 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from three, 7.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 36.9 minutes per game this season, will at least be in the running for All-NBA honors.
But while he's not going to win Most Valuable Player -- that honor will go to either Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James -- ESPN's Zach Lowe, on a recent edition of "The Lowe Post" podcast, put him fourth on his current ballot despite Portland's record. However, Bill Simmons, Lowe's guest on this episode, did not...
Zach Lowe: You mentioned that you really prioritized team record, that's why you're going to hate this choice. Can you guess who I'm talking about yet?
Bill Simmons: No.
Zach Lowe: Damian Lillard. Damian Lillard fourth.
Bill Simmons: Speechless!
Zach Lowe: Silence.
Bill Simmons: I didn't even have him in my (top) eight!
Zach Lowe: Wow. I think Dame had a slept-on, sensational season that is statistically just a couple of rebounds a game different than Doncic's in terms of all-around numbers: 29 and 8 on 40 percent shooting from three on 10 threes a game. He had one of the greatest stretches that we've ever seen in like the modern history of the NBA when he went berserk for a couple of weeks. Again, 28 and 8, 40 percent shooting, the Blazers with all of their injuries right -- their whole front line is injured -- are absolute roadkill without him. He's one of the great culture-setters in the NBA and at some point, I have to reward him. He played 500 more minutes than Kawhi and 300-plus more minutes than Luka and just the sheer amount of on-court availability, I think, and his obvious value to the Blazers, I wanted to reward him for his minutes and his availability. Statistically, he's neck-and-neck -- if you look at all the advance numbers -- he's neck-and-neck with Luka and Kawhi and Jokic, like they're all around in the same boat. And so I just said, "Look at the minutes, the guy is on the court for 400, 300, 500 more minutes, this is X amount of games, I'm gonna reward him and pencil him in or cement him in."
Damian Lillard is fourth on my MVP ballot despite the fact that the Blazers, yes, are 29-37. They were 2-6 when he was injured, so they were 27-31 with him. They have a positive scoring margin when he's on the floor. Considering their injuries, I do believe that it's possible to be a top five MVP player -- not top three maybe, but four and five -- on a team that's mediocre. So I put Damian Lillard -- and you're going to lambast me -- on my own podcast and I'm fine with that. I feel comfortable with my choice.
Simmons then states that All-NBA, rather than Most Valuable Player, as a better way to reward great players on so-so teams, which seems like an incredibly reasonable take. After all, most every player would prefer making an All-NBA team over simply finishing in the running for MVP. One is an actual award, the other is a piece of trivia.
You can listen to the entire episode here if you want to know who else Lowe and Simmons have on their respective ballots.