In today's "NBA Rookie Watch
" on ESPN.com, David Thorpe focuses on what rookies Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard should try to improve upon during the final games of their first seasons. Thorpe notes that it's difficult to point out faults in Lillard's game considering how great he's been and how well he's transitioned from Weber State to the NBA, but still manages to find an area of concern. Thorpe's advice to Dame? Be more judicious with your shots in transition.
It is alarming to watch Lillard -- a deft ball handler, an excellent shooter and a crafty driver -- still launch so many long 2s and open 3s (many off the dribble) in transition. It's a problem I mentioned earlier this season. It's not as if Portland is asking him to do so to create a fast tempo, as part of a strategy to overwhelm opponents with speed and depth. Nor is it something that is working well for him. As it stands today, Lillard is a poor decision-maker in transition because he is so ineffective.
According to Synergy Sports, he ranks in the bottom 25 percent of the league in points per transition attempt. That is not a number to be taken as gospel, but it is apparent from watching Lillard a lot that he takes quick shots far too often. He is not alone in this transgression, of course, as it is common in young players.
One of the important aspects of Lillard's launches is that his team is almost always in poor rebounding position when he misses, as those attempts occur with four or all five defensive players already back in position. When he drives and misses, he still draws help defenders, giving his teammates excellent offensive rebounding opportunities.
In half-court sets, Lillard is an excellent shooter and decision-maker, so by not taking early jump shots, he would give himself a chance to shine in an area he excels in.
Thorpe points out that it usually takes some time for young players who have the "green light" (as is the case with Lillard) to learn how to best handle the responsibility, which is a very fair observation.