Bill Simmons of pop culture, entertainment, horticulture, gardening, fashion, coin collecting, interior design, gossip and sports website Grantland.com -- also known as "The Sports Guy" -- includes Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and forward LaMarcus Aldridge in part two of his NBA Trade Value column, an annual look at the NBA's best players which takes into account their contracts, age, and other trade-related factors.
Simmons ranks Lillard No. 30 and Aldridge No. 26 and also makes it clear that you guys don't need to threaten his life. By the way, no other Blazers made the top 50.
30. Damian Lillard
29. Bradley Beal
Stay with me here ...
Beal is three years younger than Lillard and plays a much weaker position. Who are your best 2-guards in three years? Let's see ... James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson, maybe Earl Smith III if he's still acting sanely, maybe Jimmy Butler or Gordon Hayward if they break through, maybe Eric Gordon if he ever has a basketball exorcism, maybe Jabari Parker if he's as good as advertised, maybe Kobe Bryant if he snaps and goes 1998 Bonds on us. You like anyone else? Because I sure don't.
In general, the 2-guard position has turned into a closer-by-committee of specialty guys.5 And that's what makes Beal such a commodity: 19 years old, sweet stroke, underrated rebounder, excellent 3-point shooter (48 percent since New Year's Day), hard worker. What am I missing? Other than the Brow, he's my favorite guy from the 2012 draft; only the residual stink of the Washington Professional Basketball Team could derail him. Meanwhile, Lillard is three years older and plays the league's deepest position; he's a below-average defender (and that's kind); and he leads a team that just lost 34 of its last 47 games (Good Stats/Bad Team alert!!!!). The good stuff: He heated up after the All-Star break (20.4 PPG, 45-40-83 splits) despite being saddled with an abysmal supporting cast; he somehow led the league in minutes (?!?!?!?!?!?); and Portland was a near-impossible 10.2 points worse per 100 possessions with him sitting. If Mike D'Antoni coached Portland, he would have played Lillard 57 minutes a game until his ACL's turned into fusilli.
So Lillard wasn't a horrendous Rookie of the Year choice, even if I attended last week's Clips-Blazers game and was shocked by how easily Chris Paul abused him on both ends. There's some mild Damon Stoudamire potential here: In 1996, Stoudamire, 22 at the time, won ROY on the 21-win Raptors by going 19 and nine and making 40 percent of his 3s. He never got better. (Poor Damon - we picked on him in both parts of this column.) But I'd bet anything that Beal leapfrogs Lillard on next year's list. Especially because I'm picking next year's list.
26. LaMarcus Aldridge
I was more than ready to write a biting "I couldn't be more disappointed in LaMarcus; he's not a franchise guy" paragraph that would have fetched me death threats on Blazer's Edge ... right until I caught the Blazers in person last week. Good lord. Putting up 21-8s every night with that crew was actually an achievement; that's why they were 5.7 points worse per 100 possessions with Aldridge on the bench. For the record, I don't LOVE those on/off points-per-100-possession stats, but I always find them interesting. For instance, The Walking Dead is much more entertaining when Daryl is involved, so hypothetically, his plus/minus numbers would be waaaaaaaaay up there. But is that because he's a compelling character, or because so many of the actors/characters on that show absolutely suck? I'd argue a little of both.
You could say Aldridge is the Daryl of the 2013 Trail Blazers. Like Daryl, he can't be the lead of a quality show (or in Aldridge's case, a franchise player) - ideally, he'd be the second-best player on a playoff team, a little like Brook Lopez in Brooklyn right now. But you can't discount how much bad career luck Aldridge had (the Greg Oden-Brandon Roy double whammy), or how poorly they put together this year's Blazers roster. There were quality role players available last summer like Reggie Evans, Randy Foye, Carlos Delfino, Matt Barnes, Nate Robinson ... heck, even Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen would have helped them. They proactively wanted to stink. Paul Allen isn't any more competent than Robert Sarver; he just has more money and a better Wikipedia page.
Simmons also complimented Dave's post on the Lakers and the officiating on a recent podcast.
Thanks to dame4mvp who beat me to it in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter