Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard took his fame to new heights last season. He led the Blazers to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2000 before running into the Golden State Warriors.
In order to get them there, he hit possibly the most cold-blooded buzzer-beater in Portland playoff history.
In the offseason, the Blazers were so impressed they offered Lillard a contract that will make him the highest-paid player in NBA history after the 2020-21 season.
But Lillard is not going to settle down with all that cash and call it a day. He’s set on delivering a championship to Rip City, and he will be doing everything he can to do that in the upcoming season.
Here are three predictions on Lillard’s 2019-20 season.
3. Lillard Will Average the Most PPG He Has In His Career
Dame’s career-high for points per game came in the 2016-17 season, three years ago. He averaged 27.0 points a game in 75 games for the Blazers, while shooting 44 percent from the field.
After being offered a monster contract, look for Lillard to up these numbers. The only big scorers that the Blazers have on their roster are Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and the streaky Rodney Hood.
The absence of Jusuf Nurkic means that if Hood has an off night, Lillard and McCollum are going to have to shoulder the scoring load, as they have so many times for the Blazers.
Lillard is going to come out of the gates guns blazing, and he’s got a good shot of putting up at least 27 a night assuming he stays healthy.
2. Lillard Will Be An All-Star Starter
Here’s a controversial take: Lillard will start an All-Star game for the first time in his career.
The explosive scorer has been an All-Star four times throughout his career. In all four of his appearances, the West’s backcourt starting spots have been taken by either Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, or James Harden.
Obviously, Kobe will not be taking a spot this time. So Lillard’s biggest threats are Curry or Harden. Harden presumably will have to sacrifice a good chunk of his ball-handling abilities to Russell Westbrook, which will put a dent in his statistics.
Curry is now the best scorer on the Warriors, but can he carry a Durant and Klay-less Warriors to respectable record while shouldering the scoring load?
This could be the year Lillard gets the coveted start.
1. Lillard Hits Another Playoff Game-Winner But Gets Knocked Out In First Round
It would be a shock to see Lillard not step up to the task and put up another brilliant season, but the Western Conference has drastically improved around him.
The Blazers should make the playoffs easily, but they are not guaranteed a top-four seed. Lillard should carry the Blazers to a fifth or sixth seed and draw a tough first-round matchup.
The guard has ice in his veins, and it’s virtually a guarantee he comes up with a clutch shot in the postseason.
However, the West depth is too much for Lillard to overcome and it’s likely that even after a Herculean effort from their star, the Blazers fall short yet again.
The 2020-21 season might tell a different tale.