Scoring 30-plus points in eight of his last nine games while pushing the Portland Trail Blazers into a serious playoff contention, “#They” have begun to take notice of Damian Lillard.

After being snubbed from the NBA All-Star Game, Lillard’s performances including a 51-point dismantling of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, have thrust the Portland point guard into the league’s Most Valuable Player conversation after an offseason in which many predicted the Blazer to be in the cellar of the Western Conference.

In ESPN’s inaugural Player Power Rankings, senior writer Chris Broussard ranks Lillard seventh behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers’ Chris Paul. Writes Broussard:

His shockingly low RPM (real plus-minus) notwithstanding, Dame D.O.L.L.A. is making folks pay for all sorts of snubs — not recruiting him out of high school, leaving him off of top-five PG lists and, of course, failing to name him to the All-Star team.

With a chip on his shoulder the size of his hometown of Oakland, he’s averaged 33.7 points since the All-Star break. More importantly, he’s got the team everybody left for dead playing some of the league’s best ball and in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Lillard is currently the only player in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and seven assists this season entering the Trail Blazers’ game versus the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Though 300 career games, Lillard is just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 21 points and six assists joining Oscar Robertson, Nate Archibald, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

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