The Ball So Hard 50: Damian Lillard, no. 43

Sick of arguing with your friends about who is the best player in the NBA? Leading into the ’13-14 NBA Season, Ball So Hard will be putting an end to the debate. Here is the decisive list of the 50 best NBA players.

Note: predictions are for the up coming season and rank players on how they will perform in the ’13-14 season.

Image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

No. 43, Damian Lillard

Last season, Damian Lillard became only the fourth player in history to be unanimously voted the NBA Rookie of the Year – the other three? Blake Griffin in 2011, David Robinson in 1990 and Ralph Sampson in 1984. But watching the young Portland point guard, you wouldn’t even guess he was a rook.

Maybe it was the four years he spent learning his craft and torturing Big Sky opponents for Weber State University? Maybe it’s the ice running through his veins? Maybe scouts just got it wrong and didn’t realise this kid could ball?

Regardless, Dame put on a show in his first NBA season.

Take a look at some of the numbers and records Lillard put up in 2012-13:

  • First in the league in total minutes played (3167).
  • Fifth in the league in 3-point field goals made (185) and a new NBA Rookie record, besting the previous mark of 166 set by Stephen Curry in 2009-10.
  • 10th in the league in total assists (531).
  • 17th in the league for assists per game (6.5)
  • Ninth in the league in total points (1562).
  • 12th in the league for points per game (19.0).
  • Averaged the most points per game for a rookie point guard since Allen Iverson in 1996-97.

Now remind yourself that this kid was in his first season last year.

Mind blown.

Lillard possess a deadly 3-point range (36.8%), and as his record breaking 185 triples shows, he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. While, with only 99 of those shots being assisted, it shows that Dame can hit them from deep off both screens and off the dribble.

Although, his game doesn’t only revolve around three-point shooting, Lillard has a devastating first step and often uses it to abuse hapless defenders. He’s not afraid to mix it up in the paint once he beats his man either, finishing a respectable 53.1% of his shots at the rim.

Most impressive about Lillards play though was his durability and composure. He started all 82 games during his rookie campaign. And he showed several times during the year that he had a killer instinct well beyond his years – perhaps none more evident than this game winner against none other than fellow rookie sensation Anthony Davis.

While he does need to cut down on his turnovers (3.0 per, equal 12th most in the league), and his defence definitely needs improving, Lillard put on a rookie season for the ages.

All the talk before the 2013-13 season was about Anthony Davis, but by the end of the year Lillard was all anyone was talking about.

Last season there were some moments when the sheer number of minutes Lillard was playing was clearly taking its toll. This offseason, the Trailblazers signing of Mo Williams should help take some of the load off of the 2013 Taco Bell Skills Challenge winner and ease any fatigue he’s suffering.

Sometimes there is some doubt surrounding a players’ ability to back up such an amazing rookie season, however, the composure of Lillard in his rookie year suggests there is unlikely to be a sophomore slump.

After all, when he was playing you couldn’t recognise he was a rookie, I doubt you’ll be able to tell he’s a sophomore this year.

2 thoughts on “The Ball So Hard 50: Damian Lillard, no. 43

  1. Pingback: The Fiasco 50: Damian Lillard, no. 43 | Fiasco Sports

  2. Pingback: Re-ranking the Ball So Hard 50: 15-11 | BALL SO HARD

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