Damian Lillard is having arguably his greatest statistical season, but the Portland Trail Blazers star is likely to see it produce a losing record, no postseason appearance and, consequently, no MVP candidacy.
But Lillard could end the season with a relatively obscure distinction that would carry some historical significance.
The Trail Blazers (31-37) are a few losses away from watching their postseason hopes transform into NBA lottery dreams despite Lillard having career highs in scoring (32.3 points per game), field goal percentage (46.5%), effective field goal percentage (56.8%), true shooting percentage (64.7%) and offensive rating 119.7.
Lillard has a shot at the NBA scoring title. His average of 32.3 points per game ranks third behind Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (33.4) and Dallas’ Luka Doncic (33). Lillard would need to average 38.8 points per game the rest of the season to reach a 33.5 scoring average. That’s a tall order, although he did average 38.5 points per game during the month of February.
But even if the scoring title doesn’t work out, Lillard could end this season earning a different scoring record. Lillard has a chance to become the oldest player in NBA history to average more than 32 points per game.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry set the record for the most points per game in a season for a player 32 or older by averaging 32.0 points per game during the 2020-21 season. Curry turned 33 in March 2021.
Lillard, who will turn 33 in July, could eclipse that mark by maintaining an average over 32 points per game this season.
Michael Jordan averaged 30.4 points per game during the 1995-96 season, when he turned 33 in February 1996.
Wilt Chamberlain averaged more than 30 points per game nine times but never when he was over the age of 30.
LeBron James, at ages 37 and 38 last season, averaged 30.3 points per game.
When informed he was on pace for this record after the team’s Tuesday night loss to the New York Knicks, Lillard said, “From the looks of it, I won’t have much of a choice.”
He was alluding to the the likelihood that he needs to average enough points for the rest of the season to set that mark in order for the Blazers to reach the postseason.
Beyond that, Lillard didn’t have much to say about the possible record given that he is laser focused on trying to reach the postseason.
“That is cool,” he said of the potential record. “But that’s not something I care about right now.”