Damian Lillard has made the All-Star team twice during his NBA career; he played for the Western Conference back in 2014 and 2015. But the Trail Blazers point guard has missed out on making the team over the course of the last two seasons, despite putting up dramatically improved stats during those two stints, and he could miss out on making the All-Star Game again this season. He’s currently ranked eighth among all of the guards in the West in the fan All-Star ballots and sits behind players like Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, and… Lonzo Ball?
The problem for Lillard is that the West is jam-packed with great guards. Outside of the names we listed above, the West also has Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker, and others. But that doesn’t make the repeated All-Star snubs any easier for Lillard, and while speaking with ESPN this week, he reiterated how he feels about being left out of the All-Star conversation, even though he clearly deserves to be right in the middle of it.
"I’ve gotten frustrated just for the fact that it feels like I always got to be the fall guy and every other guy has been deserving," Lillard said. "In the past, the thing has been, 'All right, my team has been 10 games under .500 or not in the playoffs,' but every year we’ve found a way to be in the postseason, and this year I think we’re in a much better position than we have been in the past two seasons that I didn’t make it. I think I’ve gotten over the emotional part of it the last few times that I didn’t make it. Now I’m kind of like expecting it to go that way, but I feel like I should be there."
The good news for Lillard—who currently sits at ninth in the NBA in scoring with 25.0 points per game—is that he could receive an All-Star nod this season even if he doesn’t make up any ground in the fan ballots. The All-Star coaches determine who the reserves will be for their respective teams, and Lillard could earn a spot on the team that way.
But still, it’s pretty crazy Lillard is behind a guy like Ball, who is clearly not on Lillard’s level yet, in the fan voting part of the process. Lillard said he does understand why that is, though, and he’s not letting that part of things bother him too much.
"He plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most, if not the most, storied franchises in that big of a market," Lillard told ESPN. "So, so many people are going to support him throughout that, and also with his dad and all the attention that's been surrounding him since college. There's a lot of people that follow him, so that's not really a surprise to me. The market size and what's going on with his family, it's no surprise really to me."
If Lillard isn’t on the All-Star team this season, it won’t come as a huge shock to anyone, including Lillard himself. But it’s hard to argue against him earning a spot on the team, and it’s amazing that he somehow keeps getting overlooked, especially when you take a look at the résumé he has put together year in and year out.
The team captains and the starters for the All-Star Game will be announced on TNT on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.