OSN: Why Damian Lillard Is Still A Top-5 Point Guard In The NBA
By Patrick Rogers | Oregon Sports News
The recency bias against Damian Lillard is honestly astounding. I’m seeing articles barely mentioning one of the best point guards in the game today, and I had to take a moment to show how dominant Lillard has been. So I’ve compiled a list of four point guards that seemed to be mentioned in every article, grabbed their statistics, strengths, and weaknesses, and put them up against Dame’s numbers. Let’s take a look!
Not mentioned were Chris Paul, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. On CP3, while he’s the most innovative point guard in the league, he’s in the last year or two of his career. If I’m starting a franchise today, I’d want Lillard, easily. James Harden’s been inconsistent these past couple of years, requesting trades and switching teams, and is a shooting guard. While most likely the best ball handler in the game, Kyrie Irving doesn’t see basketball as his number one priority, which hinders his team’s success.
Last Four Years: 27.6 PPG / 4.4 RPG / 7.4 APG on 44.7% FG / 90.6 % FT / 37.9% 3PT
32.0 OWS / 3.9 DWS / 35.9 WS / 17.8 VORP
Strength: Offensive excellence
It’s no secret that Damian Lillard is a premier offensive point guard. Out of the point guards mentioned here, Lillard has had the highest offensive win shares in the past four years. He can score on any level, including in the paint. Because of this, he can elevate his entire team, leading this group in winning shares.
Weakness: Average defense
If you could call it a weakness, Damian Lillard is average at defense at best. His defense has been one of the points that the Blazers have been trying to make up for, albeit with Damian out of the game, the Blazers struggle offensively. Retaining Nurkic and the other moves I’ve outlined before should mask this.
Last Four Years: 28.0 PPG / 5.3 RPG / 5.8 APG on 46.3% FG / 92.0% FT / 41.0% 3PT
18.5 OWS / 8.5 DWS / 27.0 WS / 15.5 VORP
Strength: Creation of a new game
Stephen Curry created this new basketball brand, which you see now with the young players from Kindergarten to the rookies in the NBA. That brand is firing up three-pointers off a pick and roll, regardless of their footing.
One of Curry’s downfalls coming into the draft was his ability to stay healthy. There was mention that Curry learned a new way to walk when he got into the league to prevent injuries, as his legs seemed most vulnerable to injury. As a result, Curry only missed a significant amount of time once in his first eight seasons. However, in the last four seasons, Curry has missed over 100 games with an MCL sprain, ankle injuries, and even a tailbone injury.
Edge: Curry, barely
You can take Dame off the Blazers and replace him with Steph, and the Blazers wouldn’t suffer. However, it would be a completely different team if you were to take Steph off the Warriors and replace him with Dame. As Isiah Thomas once said, “The secret to basketball is that it’s not about basketball.” Steph will go down as the best point guard of this generation until Luka gets in there.
Last Four Years: 26.4 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 8.0 APG on 45.7% FG / 73.7% FT / 33.7% 3PT
17.5 OWS / 11.5 DWS / 29.0 WS / 19.8 VORP
Luka knows how to use his strength to get where he needs to be on the court. Couple that with his ability to bang bodies down low to grab rebounds and use his height to captain an offense. Luka may be the most intelligent player in the league (CP3 has the crown).
Weakness: I can’t find one
The running joke for a while was that Luka was out of shape and fat. They failed to realize that when he came into the league, he was still a kid. He’s starting to grow into his body, as revealed by a photo of him playing for his national team Slovenia. Shedding that label, I struggle to find any issues in his game. He shoots well from the field for his usage (averaging almost 30/10/10 per 36 minutes), rebounds with the best of them, and routinely rips off triple-doubles, all while barely sweating.
Luka’s a top-four player in the league, surrounded by Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic, and Dame is not there.
Last Three Years: 21.2 PPG / 4.5 RPG / 7.1 APG on 47.4% FG / 75.4% FT / 32.7% 3PT
8.4 OWS / 5.3 DWS / 13.7 WS / 5.9 VORP
Ja is looking to hurt someone on offense by dunking over them and ending their career. His insane athleticism allows him to get to the hoop off of just one move, leading to defenders laying him off from three. He’s also improving from there, hitting a respectful 34.4% last year.
With that athleticism comes responsibility. It can define your career, whether you become Dwayne Wade or Derrick Rose. Both players are memorable, yet Wade will have a longer career. Ja needs to learn to save some of those dunks for the sake of his legs. Once he masters this, he can ascend to a new level.
Edge: Damian Lillard
Lillard, at this point, is a more polished player, thank Ja. Even though Ja could win in a dunk contest (probably against anyone), Lillard’s overall game is better.
Last Four Years: 25.3 PPG / 3.9 RPG / 9.1 APG on 44.0% FG / 87.3% FT / 35.5% 3PT
22.8 OWS / 3.5 DWS / 26.3 WS / 11.9 VORP
Shooting is a given. Ice Trae is a reincarnation of Steph Curry’s game, although Trae is more of a passer. Young’s ability to shoot from anywhere on the court from up to the half-court line keeps his opponents on high alert. Any slip up in coverage; Young takes advantage of that by splashing a three from the parking lot.
Trae Young is listed at 6’1″ 165lbs, but the 6’1″ aspect may be overstated. He’s the smallest player on this list and may remain that way in the future with the new players in the NBA. For example, Chet Holmgren, Aleksej Pokusevski, and upcoming phenom Victor Wembanyama all have a remarkable ability to hit threes at seven feet or taller. However, on pick and pops, Trae becomes a non-factor on defense.
Edge: Damian Lillard
Lillard’s stature and overall offensive efficiency put him ahead of Trae Young in almost perpetuity. However, I’m afraid Trae will become too small for the league, as the snipers coming into the league become taller every year.
Overall, at worst, Damian Lillard is the third-best point guard in the league. He’s got the edge over Trae Young and Ja Morant right now. To my surprise, Lillard has been the best offensive point guard in the league in the past four years while also being the most valuable player to his team. Because of the less-than-good year last year, I feel that the casual NBA fan forgot about Lillard. This year, he’ll make them remember.