Lillard Time Lights Up The Floor To The All-Star Break
By sarahhecht Posted in: damianlillard
“With the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft the Portland Trail Blazers select Damian Lillard.” Looking back on June 28, 2012, Rip City faithful couldn’t be more thrilled with those words from Commissioner David Stern.
Dame has met every expectation and beyond in his short NBA career and the ceiling for the young rookie is too high to touch, even if you jump. Lillard’s adjustment to the NBA has been nothing short of phenomenal, his performances far beyond and expectations—he’s the only player in NBA history to score over 900 points and make more than 100 3-pointers in his first 50 career games. Let that sink in for a minute.
Got it? Good. Now watch this video and prepare for goosebumps. He's so good.
Through the 53 games of his NBA career thus far Dame's averaging 18.3 points per game, 6.5 assists per game and is shooting a solid 42-percent. His 25 games of 20-plus points are easily best of any rookie in the league—Bradley Beal is second in the category with eight. There have only been four games in which he’s been held under double-digit scoring and the Trail Blazers only won one of those games, further demonstrating his vital role to the team.
Here are some more stats to wrap your head around. Heading into the All-Star Break, Lillard is 3rd in the league in minutes played following only Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, he’s 12th in the NBA in assists, behind the likes of Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook, but ahead of Stephen Curry and Jeremy Lin and he’s 19th in the league in points per game. For a Rookie, that’s insane.
All of these outstanding statistics begin to tell the story, but the reality surely sinks in when you hear other players around the league sing his praises—and we’re not talking just any guy who played against him on a night he shined, we’re talking bonafide NBA superstars.
"I'm a big fan of Damian Lillard,” said Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He's one of the best young point guards in the league, probably the best young point guard. Him and Kyrie Irving are neck and neck."
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat dubbed Lillard a standout, "You know he's one of those special rookies, the Tony Parker type of special rookie. He comes right in and that rookie tag will be gone real soon. He's a player. They got a good one." Fans in Rip City would undoubtedly make the argument that the “rookie tag” is all but gone already when it comes to Lillard’s on court play and cool-headed approach—there’s been no roller coaster of acclimation for him, sure he’s learning as he goes just like every other rookie in the league, but he’s taking veteran players to school while he does it.
Here are some of the big dogs raining compliments.
Now keep in mind, we haven’t even started to talk about the Rookie of the Year race. If you’re of the opinion he’s all but wrapped it up, you’re not alone. Following his 37-point night in Oakland in January national NBA analysts began to call him a “lock,” and just last week he put up 33 on the defending champs all but ending the conversation.
He was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in November, December and January and if he keeps performing at the level he’s at now anything less than a season sweep of all six followed by the coveted Rookie of the Year award will be a surprise. Those early accolades make him one of only two Trail Blazers to ever to win Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors three times—the other was Brandon Roy on his quest for the ROY—and he could set the team record this month.
"Well, I think he's the Rookie of the Year. He's exceeded all expectations and more," LeBron James said of Lillard. "He's never out of his comfort zone. He's never too fast. He's never too slow. He plays in his own lane. His ability to shoot the ball, to drive the ball, makes him a threat."
This shiny little wrap up is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the play of Damian Lillard. Tonight and tomorrow he’ll add to his resume with his participation in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend.
Here's Dame and Team Shaq for the Rising Stars game tonight and a full photo gallery
of everything All-Star.
Head over to All-Star Central
for exclusive coverage of Dame and LA in Houston and to chat with other Blazermaniacs LIVE during their games and events.