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Damian Lillard Ranked 22nd Best Player in NBA by SI.com

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SI.com ranks Damian Lillard 22nd among all NBA players. See what other Blazers made the grade!

USA TODAY Sports

Update (9/18): LaMarcus Aldridge was ranked #12 today:

For Aldridge, the self-cast Rodney Dangerfield of the NBA’s deep group of elite power forwards, 2013-14 marked the most fulfilling and gratifying season of his eight-year career. Stuck in the lottery for two seasons as Blazers management attempted to move on from Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, Aldridge began venting some frustrations last summer. It was one thing for Aldridge to feel snubbed in comparison to higher-profile peers like Kevin Love or Blake Griffin; it was far worse to feel like his team wasn't capable of putting him on a big enough stage to stake his claim to the awards and adulation.

OK, so these mid-September ranking exercises get old pretty quickly, but Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver at SI.com list Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard as the 22nd best player in the NBA.

Money Quote:

Lillard set goals after his rookie year -- become a better defender, fill out his mid-range game, learn to take and draw contact more effectively -- but his second season was defined more by improving his strengths rather than fixing his weaknesses. He continues to finish at a poor rate in the basket area (46.9 percent), he still has a long way to go to be a plus defender and he needs to deepen his bag of tricks near the paint. Nitpicking misses the larger point, though: Lillard went from being a no-name fast riser in the draft to a franchise guy with a playoff-series victory in two years. In that time, Lillard didn't miss a game; that's crucial, because Portland would be completely lost without him.

Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum also broke SI's Top 50, ranking 43rd overall:

Batum is a jack-of-all-trades who seems ideally suited for his complementary role. He is equally capable of hitting catch-and-shoot jumpers, initiating pick-and-roll action, defending all three perimeter positions and executing chase-down blocks in transition... Batum has put himself in the conversation for "second-best small forward in the West" behind Kevin Durant.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has not been revealed yet so unless the guys over there have been drinking like the love children of Arvydas Sabonis and Andre the Giant, Portland should register a player in the Top 20 as well.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com | @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge