Damian Lillard - first scoring title on the way at last?
The NBA's leading scorer is a hot topic every single season. As well as the plaudits received for the one player who manages to take that top spot, there's also the side plot of LeBron James's push to overhaul Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record.
The 2021 NBA season has only just begun. With most teams playing no more than eight games, Anthony Davis leads with 229 points for the Los Angeles Lakers. The usual suspects of Stephen Curry (last year's leading scorer) and LeBron James are also in the running.
So, who is most likely to be the leading scorer of the season?
Who are the favorites?
When it comes to betting on NBA awards for the season, this is one of the hottest markets. Curry and LeBron James remain the favorites to take the crown. With roughly 500 players on the court and more than 82 games for 30 teams, predicting the leading scorer is one of the most difficult tasks fans have.
Let's walk through who is most likely to finish the season at the top of the pile in the scoring records category.
Rising star - Damian Lillard
While others focus on Stephen Curry and Bradley Beal, there has been an increasing amount of interest in Damian Lillard.
The Portland Trail Blazers star finished third in this category last season, boasting 28.8 points per game. In 2019, he reached 30.0 points per game but once again finished third, behind James Harden and Beal.
Lillard seems to be a victim of circumstance. Despite reaching peak volume and efficiency, someone else tends to snatch the crown away. This is why Lillard, for all his great play, has never won a scoring title.
But could this be the year the field clears?
Lillard is in an intriguing position because he endured a chaotic offseason that almost saw him move to the Los Angeles Lakers to join LeBron James and Co. The move failed to materialize and Lillard made the commitment to play in Portland for the next four years.
But what impact will this have for the disenchanted superstar? With the Warriors, Lakers and even the Jazz surging forward, will Portland waste Lillard's best years? These are questions that resulted in Lillard attempting to make a move happen in the first place.
The chances are the NBA hasn't heard the end of this. As long as Lillard continues to be a gamechanger, there's no reason why teams like the Lakers won't try to steal him away again.
Despite this, Lillard’s talent is inarguable. Regardless of where his head is at, he will still put up monster points this season, barring injury.
Why the field could clear for Lillard
The super teams of California present an intriguing opportunity for Lillard to claim his first scoring title. Even though the NBA Championship is almost certainly not heading to Portland this year, in the eyes of most betting markets, the scoring title could be.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden are all sharing the ball. Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the same. For last year's winner, Stephen Curry now has to compete with the returning Klay Thompson.
Lillard is a contender who doesn't need to accommodate any other superstar. He is the heart and soul of his team and is the only reason the Trail Blazers have a chance of making a championship run.
Could the Portland Trail Blazers go all the way?
Unlike his close competitors, Lillard has not often had the experience of deep championship runs. But with Lillard seemingly reaching his scoring potential, what chance does his team have of going all the way?
At the start of the season, the favorites for the finals were the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers, to nobody's surprise.
The Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz have shown themselves to be contenders when the playoffs roll around. The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, have already posted a 3-5 record.
For Lillard, this has led to just 19.5 points per game in the early salvos of the brand-new season. At this point, nothing is said and done. Plenty of teams have posted poor records in the opening few games and then gone on to make the playoffs and win it all.
The issue for Portland is that Lillard doesn't have the team around him to make things happen. He's the soul of the team and the only reason why they're not sitting at the Pelicans' level.
Will Lillard win his first scoring title? Possibly. Will Portland claim their first NBA Championship since 1977? Highly unlikely.