Before we get into this week’s stats, I just want to rave about Damian Lillard. Previous seasons of his have impressed, but this season has been remarkable so far. He isn’t just another point guard in the era of point guards any longer, he has become one of the preeminent point guards in the league. Dame’s success derives from his understated patience and poise on the court. Along with his shooting, athleticism, and ability to score in the paint at a prolific rate, there is a calm storm about him. He has control in a chaotic environment unlike anything we’ve seen outside of superstar players.
Against the Denver Nuggets on October 29, 2016, with the game tied and clock at 12 seconds, Lillard waved off an initial attempt at a screen. He knew exactly what he had to do. With power forward Kenneth Faried matched up with him on the perimeter, Lillard had a clear quickness advantage. The game clock read three seconds, Lillard made the right read and instantly took Faried off the dribble and got all the way to the paint to nail a floater that iced the game with .03 seconds left. Blank stare, accompanied only by the recognizable “Dame Time” signal, he walked back to the bench, game in hand. On to the next one. The professionalism and electric stoicism propels his Portland Trailblazers in games won and games lost. Let’s get into some stats.
- Damian Lillard is averaging six drives to the basket and hitting at 56%. That more than touted “Paint Guards” Derrick rose and Russell Westbrook. Lillard’s excellent outside shooting and getting to the rim opens up the offense significantly with him on the floor. Pick and roll situations are particularly hard to defend because of the option to get off a shot or score at the rim.
- The Portland Trailblazers rank in the bottom five in the league in fast break points allowed at 15 per game. Transition defense is key in the league as teams are trying to play faster and games have more possessions. Fast break points can kill an offense and defense in very real ways.
- The lineup of Ed Davis, Evan Turner, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, and Allen Crabbe has an offensive rating of 112 and a defensive rating of 78. That’s a net rating of approximately 34. This is the best lineup sans Damian Lillard that has logged more than 10 minutes. This lineup has seen limited floor time and has appeared in only three of the Blazers eight games. Coach Terry Stotts should try letting this combination see a bit more daylight when Lillard takes to the bench. Small sample size noted.
- Through nine games the Portland Trailblazers are top in the league at points from the ball handler and field goal percentage. Second and seventh in the league respectively. The players handling the ball on this team are usually the guards and wings, as their pivot-men aren’t big back-to-the-basket players. Hence the team being bottom three in points off post ups. The NBA game is about exploiting the things you do well just as much as it is about avoiding getting stuck in situations where your weaknesses can conversely be exploited. The Blazers have found their niche and are pretty darn good at it.
- CJ McCollum is leading the team in three point percentage with 47-percent on five attempts a game. This is what makes that backcourt one of the most difficult to guard. It is a tough task deciding who to guard when they are both shooting above 35% from beyond the arc.
- Mason Plumlee is fifth in the league in screen assists. According to NBA.com, a screen assist is when an “Offensive player sets a screen for a teammate that directly leads to a made field goal by that teammate.” Plumlee is also an underrated traditional assist man.
- Damian Lillard very rarely looks rattled over the course of a game. When he is on the court, 26% of his shots come between 15 and seven seconds. Play development and reading the defense is what makes Lillard so good.
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