Lillard Progress Report vs Best Rookie PGs of Last Decade

In July, after the Blazers drafted Damian Lillard, I reported on a detailed statistical analysis that looked at the performances of the best rookie point guards of the last ten years to provide insight into what we might expect from Lillard. The post is here:

Lillard and Ten Years of Rookie NBA Point Guards

It looked at the ranges of point guard attributes (shooting, assists, turnovers) for 24 starter quality point guard during their rookie years.

Now that the season is 15% over, I think a progress report is appropriate. So where does his performance to date stand?

His PER is 20.4, which is third on the list, behind only Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, both rookies of the year.

My prior analysis showed a correlation between PER and TS%, and that three things appeared to contribute to a high TS%: be a good finisher, shoot often and well from deep, and take lots of free throws. Let's look at these in succession.

  • TS%: Lillard #1.
  • Be a good finisher: Lillard #1 in 2-point %.
  • Shoot often and well from deep: Lillard #1 in 3P attempts and makes, and #4 in 3P%.
  • Take lots of free throws: Lillard #10 in FTA.

Prognosis: Fantastic on both finishing and deep shooting.

Regarding free throws, first, his FT% has dropped from the 88% he shot in college. It's reasonable to expect it to return to those levels. Second, while he is #10 in FTA, he is only #19 on 2P attempts. So relative to his 2 point attempts, he gets fouled at a high rate. If you make an index of FTA divided by 2PA, he is second only to Chris Paul. This is not a perfect index because of fouls on 3P attempts. But it is a reasonable approximation. So he actually does well at getting fouled when he drives, he just doesn't drive at a high rate. Given how well he shoots from deep, I can see why. And in college, he went to the line frequently.

Let's now turn to the areas where he is not near the top in performance: assists and turnovers. On assists, Lillard is #17 on the list, while for turnovers, he is #15. And his assist to turnover ratio is 1.8, which places him #21 on the list. In these areas, let's compare him to the five best point guards to enter the game since 2002-2003: Chris Paul, Derron Williams, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. On AST%, he is behind only Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, and at the top of a close pack of the other four. On TOV%, he is behind Rose, Paul, and Williams, and comparable to Irving and Westbrook. So compared to these rookie of the year and all-star quality point guards in their rookie years, he is holding his own.

BOTTOM LINE: Lillard tops all of the 25 rookie NBA point guards in terms of shooting, and holds his own on assists and turnovers against five of the best (rookie of the year, all-star quality).

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