NBA Notebook: Damian Lillard is the league's most clutch player
One year into the pandemic, the NBA is in an exceptionally good place right now. The MVP race is fantastic, the playoff standings are tightening up, and trade rumors are as hot as ever.
Let’s take a look at the top four stories from around the Association.
Damian Lillard has been unguardable
Damian Lillard continues to build a reputation as a clutch performer, elite shooter, and ultimate competitor. The latest chapter in the Book of Dame was another 50-point performance in an epic comeback victory on Tuesday night.
With his Trail Blazers down 17 halfway through the fourth quarter, Lillard scored 20 points, including two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to ice the game. The 50-point performance tied him with LeBron James for the seventh-most in NBA history.
Lillard is carrying the Blazers and is showing no signs of cracking under that pressure. He is a treat for the league and its fans, and makes Portland a legitimate threat to knock off any team in the league on any given night.
Trade Season is heating up
Some players have been on the trade block for weeks, if not months, giving us endless speculative discussion on future roster dynamics. Other trades in these final weeks leading up to the March 25 trade deadline seem to have stayed under wraps until the news has broken.
Trevor Ariza has been sent from the Thunder to the Heat, while P.J. Tucker has finally left Houston, heading to the Milwaukee Bucks to serve as their kryptonite to Kevin Durant. Other key players are likely to be traded soon, so keep your eyes open for the latest Woj Bombs certain to make waves throughout the league.
OKC Could be scary good... in 2027
The Thunder have spent the last several years parting ways with the biggest stars on their roster. First was James Harden, then Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook went next, and then Chris Paul. While the departure of top talent has left the team searching for playoff wins, it has allowed them to stockpile draft picks.
When the Leonard deal gets finalized, the Thunder will have 32 draft picks in the next seven years.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 17, 2021
Thirty. Two. Draft. Picks.
18 firsts, 14 seconds.
In their most recent trade for Meyers Leonard of the Heat, they also picked up a second round draft pick. As a result, the Thunder now have an incredible 18 first-round picks and 14 second-round picks through the 2027 NBA Draft. This is an unprecedented bevy of assets, and while the Thunder won’t be a team to watch in 2021, they are quietly building an arsenal.
Joel Embiid Injury could shake up MVP race
Formerly the front-runner in the NBA MVP race, Joel Embiid, is out for a couple of weeks with a knee injury. Fortunately for the 76ers and all fans of the game, the Cameroonian center only has a bruised knee and is on track to recover quickly.
MVP Winner 2020/2021
Sun, May 16 2021, 11:00 PM
Embiid had been playing at an incredible level the first half of the season, topping the league in Player Efficiency Ranking (PER), but this setback may end up costing him the MVP award as a number of stars behind him continue to play at a high level as well.
The 76ers are first in the Eastern Conference, but with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks hot on their trail, they're counting the minutes until their All-Star big man returns.