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Damian Lillard, Portland’s MVP.
- Updated: January 22, 2014
Portland Trail Blazers fans are spoiled. They get a stellar, albeit overachieving, team in a stacked Western Conference. Their team is exciting to watch (all offense, no defense) and should produce at least one or two All-Stars this season. With the young core of Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Damian Lillard, this is a team that should continue to threaten the fabric of the NBA elite.
The Trail Blazers’ most exciting player is their most important: Damian Lillard. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge is having an absolute beast of a season, but Lillard’s having a better one. He’s improved on his atrocious defense to be a passable option against opposing team’s guards, but he still won’t be on anyone’s efficiency rankings on defense. That being his biggest weakness, Lillard’s offensive game is the most explosive of any guard not named Stephen Curry or James Harden.
His 600+ three-pointer attempt pace is historic (and at a 3.1 average per game and 43 percent), his free-throw shooting is exceptional, and he’s increased his scoring average to 21.2 points. A low turnover rate (2.3) coupled with the responsibility of being one-half of the Trail Blazers’ ballhandling with Nicolas Batum makes him one of the best at his position for offense. These are surface area statistics, however — let’s dig deeper.
He’s 16th overall in drives to the basket per game at 5.1. And while he was not shooting particularly effective from up-close drives (32 percent), it allows the Trail Blazers’ sharpshooters open corner looks. For a point guard, he averages an insane 5.5 catch-and-shoot shots at a 45.3 percent as well as 6.5 pull-up shots at 42.7 percent. His three-pointer threat allows his effective field goal percentage to be very high at 52.1 percent. In perspective, it’s higher than guards, James Harden, Monta Ellis, and Chris Paul. An increase in efficiency from close range should put him in the elite tier with LeBron James (62.3 percent).
Lillard’s deserving of an All-Star nod for his spectacular offensive pace and feats, but it doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency. He’s been the key cog for Portland’s offense and should continue to blossom.
Photo Credit: Chris Humphrey/USA TODAY Sports