Whats eating Damian Lillard?

Our boy Lillard seems to be playing different this year. He seems to have drained out some of the Mamba blood in him which has left us with an interesting player.

Obviously he has improved and we've seen his PER go up. This lack of Mamba blood leaves Lillard with fewer pullup/stepback jumpers etc. I like this as I think it fits our team MUCH better...though it has also taken some of the wind out of his sails...or at least it looks like that sometimes. I notice myself going "geez why isn't Lillard killing these guys" and then I look and we as a team have won nearly every game and Dame is still scoring a lot. Here is what I think has happened (just off the cuff):

  1. The Blazers kill as a team much more this year. This means less of Lillard pounding the ball and making something up. More hockey assists for Dame as our offense doesn't begin and end with he and LMA in PnR. This is all by design and fits our other players so much better. I think it suits Dame too as he can pick his spots better. I think this is why his assists are down slightly too.
  2. People have a great scouting report on Dame. They know his game better and know how to defend his driving attack. Its not super creative yet and he isn't Westbrook explosive. This means he gets blocked more but Lillard has also improved (refs improved) his ability to create contact and get to the foul line. His finishing #s are down but he is getting the line well. He takes fewer 2pt shots and is finishing at an abysmal 39% where as last year he was at 47%. However; his FT rate has jumped from 2.5 to 3.6 though! PER has jumped 3 pts too!
  3. Dame is playing off the ball a lot more. This is where he makes up his lack of "calling my own number". Dame is great off the ball and works hard to get free and a nice look. This is one of the reasons his 3pt% has increased by 4 whole % pts (thats a lot going from 37% to 41%) while increasing the rate at which he shoots them too.

So to defend my homer-ism for Lillard, my thoughts are that he is going to figure out his drive-n-finish game sometime this year. His assist game is ok and my guess is that his hockey assists are high.

I think if LMA can keep up his new found dominance and Lillard can turn the corner on his finishing game, we have a great chance at the WCF. The good news is that Dame is still trying. The drive is an important part of his game and he certainly gets more than enough chances a game to try new stuff and get better at what he does already. I think when Lillard gets his act, he is going to REALLY be lethal in our system. Obviously his clutchness is proven.

Areas of improvement (besides what was already said):

  • Creative Passing. He isn't exactly Rubio yet. He'll need this soon. Not sure he has the chops for it but our system doesn't require it.
  • PnR defense. He is trying HARD. I think we'll see him turn the corner on this sometime later this season.
  • Fast Break - Damian is quite the athlete he just doesn't finish well in the break yet. Wish he would. Every now and then I see him do it (the other night) and he'll be a one man fast break for 2 easy pts. Like to see more of that and him finishing better as well.
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