Lillard Looks To Be More Efficient While Continuing To 'Play How I Play'
There wasn't much debate when it came to which player should win the
2013 NBA Rookie of the Year award, as the combination of Damian
Lillard's exceptional performance as Portland's starting point guard and
the somewhat underwhelming seasons turned in by his fellow first-year
players made the choice rather easy. So much so that Lillard became just
the fourth NBA player to win Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote.
there were a few dissenting voices who said, while Lillard might have
been the most prolific rookie in 2012-13, that didn't necessarily mean
he was the most valuable rookie. And that entire argument was based on
"… If you look at virtually every stat, (Anthony) Davis had a better year," wrote ESPN.com's Chad Ford in a chat on ESPN.com. "PER, Win Shares, WARP, you name it ... all of them show Davis clearly as the best rookie last season."
argument goes that while Lillard might have had far superior per game
stats, other players like David and Andre Drummond, players who played
far less than Lillard did in 2012-13, were more efficient and therefore
more valuable. This is not an argument without merit, though the obvious
rebuttal is that while it may be generally true that efficiency is a
good marker of a player's value, it doesn't take into account that
leading the league in minutes and playing in every game has an intrinsic
value that isn't necessarily reflected in efficiency statistics.
I'm not as efficient, then that's one thing," said Lillard in May after
winning Rookie of the Year. "But I think being out there, playing the
most minutes in the league, playing every game is hard! The rookies that
they said were more efficient, if they played the amount of minutes and
played in every game and had the amount of responsibility that I have
and then they were more efficient, then that's one thing. But we had
completely different situations."
But now, it's Lillard who is in a
different situation. During his rookie season, the Trail Blazers need
Lillard to have a productive, if not efficient, offensive performance
almost every night in order to have a chance to win thanks to having few
scoring options outside of the starting five. That hopefully won't be
the case this year after the Trail Blazers upgraded their bench with the
likes of Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and CJ McCollum,
which, in theory, gives Lillard the option of being more discerning with
the shots he takes.
"I do what to be a more efficient scorer and I
think I could do a better job of getting to the free throw line, maybe
taking better shots," said Lillard. "I got real comfortable taking tough
shots because I knew I could make them, but I think taking better shots
and getting to the free throw line a little more (will help improve
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts agrees that
the next step for Lillard offensively is being more efficient, but he
notes that Lillard has already made strides in efficiency as a
professional after having to carry the bulk of the offensive load at
"I think (Lillard) can shoot a better percentage, get
his assist/turnover ratio where we want it," said Stotts. "It's not
going to be him going from 19 points a game to 20 points a game, to me
that's not the issue. I think it's the efficiency part of his game that,
throughout the season I thought he became more efficient."
three simplest ways a player can improve his efficiency on offense are
to take more shots in the paint, take open three-pointers, particularly
from the corners, and eschew long two-pointers whenever possible. And
when speaking in general about NBA players, these things are true. But
when considering what a specific player, in this case Damian Lillard,
needs to do to improve his efficiency, the conventional wisdom might not
be the best approach.
For example, the average shooting percentage goes up the closer shots are taken to the basket, which is why the all-time leaders in field goal percentage are all big men.
But when you look at Lillard's shot chart from his rookie season, you
see that he shot one of his worst percentages, 38 percent, from the area
inside the paint, excluding the restricted area.
contrast, Lillard shot 43 percent on "mid-range" shots categorized as
shots taken outside of the painted area but inside the three-point line.
He shot his best percentage, 53 percent, in the restricted area, so
while you could claim Lillard would be wise to take more shots in the
restricted area, it's debatable if more shots taken in the painted area
would actually make Lillard more efficient. However, after shooting 46 percent from eight to 16 feet and 43 percent from 16 to 24 feet, one could argue he'd be wise to take closer mid-range shots.
there's the issue of the corner three. Lillard set the rookie record
for three-pointers made in a season with 185 makes, but he did so while
making just nine three-pointers from the corners, which are the shortest
three-pointers one can take. And while Lillard might benefit from
taking more three's from the "short corner" it's questionable that he'll
be in a position to do so as the team's starting point guard.
a point guard my game is played a lot from the wing, top, slot to the
wing, so I'm hardly ever in the corner," said Lillard. "I think that's
just how it is being a point guard and me being on the perimeter so
much. But having guys like Mo (Williams), Earl (Watson), CJ (McCollum),
Dorell (Wright), Wes (Matthews) and Nic (Batum), we've got guys that can
make these plays up top and they can handle the ball, so I might be
spaced in the corner more often this season. Maybe I might shoot from
there more often but last year it was just, I'm up here (points to top
of three-point line). That's where they came from."
All of this
isn't to discredit the idea that Lillard should strive to be more
efficient. Even Lillard admits that he could use a bit of refinement on
the offensive end, but it's important that he strikes a balance between
taking steps to be more efficient while not sacrificing the parts of his
game that made him so successful in his first season.
play how I play," said Lillard. "We want to be more efficient and we're
going to take better shots because we have more threats out there now,
so there will be more open shots. Guys will be more willing to make that
extra pass because we've got more shooters, but I'm gonna still play
how I play. I just plan on making more shots and being better at the
shots. Playing more efficient doesn't mean I'm not going to play how I
play because I'm going to play my game. I'm just going to be better at
Which is perfectly fine by Stotts.
"We'd like to get to
the rim more, we'd like to shoot more free throws, we want to shoot a
better percentage from three," said Stotts. "That being said, Damian
Lillard shooting an open 20-footer is a good shot. So you're going to
have those opportunities that we want to take advantage of, but getting
open shots and trusting each other that those shots will come, I think,
leads to better efficiency."
You can expect to see some changes to
Lillard's shot selection in an effort to be a more efficient offensive
player, but don't expect to see a drastic transformation.
come down in transition and I'm feeling comfortable and I get a guy on
his heels, I'm still gonna raise up and shoot the shot," said Lillard.
"I'm gonna miss shots. There might be a game where it's not efficient,
but the plan is at the end of the season to be more efficient than I was
"You've got to play. I'm always going to do what's best for the team and I'm always going to do what makes me, me."