Braly’s Blazers: Damian Lillard for SMVP

Max Braly Sports Contributor

Damian Lillard without question has become one of the best players in the NBA, but is he MVP worthy?

The 2015-16 NBA campaign is truly one for the history books, as the Golden State Warriors and their frontman Stephen Curry push to break the league’s now 20 year old single-season win total record set by the Chicago Bulls back in 1996. As the Warriors attempt to surpass the 72 win mark, we can’t help but ask ourselves if Curry could be in the conversation for the best basketball player of all-time.

Personally, I think it is far too early in Curry’s career to compare him to NBA greats, but when you watch him play you can’t help but wonder if he will end up being considered a legend with the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird and Lebron James.

Yes, Curry’s stats seem like they could only exist in the latest copy of NBA 2K, but they aren’t the biggest reason why we all put him on our ‘Best Player Ever Watch Lists.’ The way he gets those remarkable stats is the real reason why he is on that list. We have all fallen in love with the three point shot and when someone makes them look as straightforward as a layup, we take note.

Curry is shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc, which is surprisingly only good enough for third in the league, but he doubles and triples the number of attempts as the second and first place shooters respectively.

The NBA has seen great shooters before, but none have had Curry’s range–don’t be surprised if you see him drill a 35 footer as effortlessly as I peel the wrapper off of a Twix candy bar. He doesn’t even need a moment either, the release is so quick that affecting his shot is difficult even if the defense is tight.

If his shooting trends continue, Curry would only be the seventh player to join the 50-40-90 club–access to the exclusive club requires shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent on free throws.

Most of us get so caught up in the deep ball, that we forget about the rest of his game. On top of his league high 30.7 points per game ‘Chef’ Curry is an above average passer, dishing out 6.6 assists per game as well.

Barring some crazy tragedy, Curry has pretty much sealed up his victory for this season’s MVP award. Since it’s only the start of March and the league’s most prestigious individual award is already off the table, let’s pretend that there was an extra–albeit slightly less prestigious–award to hand out, the Second-Most Valuable Player award (SMVP.)

Who else but Damian Lillard is worthy of this award?

Sure, we could consider guys like Kevin Durant, Lebron James, or heck even Curry’s teammate Draymond Green for the coveted SMVP, but all these guys are doing exactly what they are supposed to do–they perform well on good teams.

The Blazers are a bit more defiant than that. Some NBA experts predicted Portland’s only offensive weapon to be Lillard and they were picked to come in 29th place out of 30, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure his presumed replacements. So a big jump in Lillard’s statistical production this season was to be expected. Now, he is Portland’s undisputed best player and the team is actually winning.

Admittedly, the beginning of the season was a bit shaky for Portland, but recently they have turned it around. The Blazers only accumulated one more loss than the Warriors and Spurs in February.

Their recent hot streak has the team tied with Dallas for sixth place in the western conference. That isn’t the only surprise, they’ve also already surpassed the seemingly clairvoyant Las Vegas oddsmakers’ season win total by six games, with a whooping 21 games left on the schedule.

To Portland’s credit, the team as a whole has performed well, but recently Lillard has been absolutely unconscious. In the last 10 games he has scored more than 30 points eight times, including his 51 point, seven assist, six steal, and zero turnover dismantling of the defending champions of Golden State.

Talk about a signature SMVP performance.

During the month of February, the Blazers went 9-2 and Lillard’s scoring average was 29.8 points per game while adding 6.9 assists. Compare that to the Thunder’s 6-5 February record, Lillard scored roughly the same, assisted more, and gave up fewer turnovers than Durant.

After assessing all the candidates for SMVP, it’s truly hard to not choose Lillard. If you remove any of the players I listed above off of their respective rosters, the teams’ abilities to win are more or less unaffected. That certainly can’t be said for Lillard, without him Portland’s win total could easily be cut in half, if not more than that.

To me, the single most important aspect of a player’s game is their ability affect game outcomes and Lillard is outright more valuable to his team than Durant, James, and Green are to theirs.

So Blazer fans, even though he is only the second most valuable player in the league, keep chanting “M-V-P”.

Your star has earned it.