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Damian Lillard Progressing As A Facilitator

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Lilard's game is evolving as the Trail Blazers' offense necessitates. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian outlines how Lillard is becoming one of the NBA's best facilitators.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard recorded a career-high 13 assists in Sunday's 107-93 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. That and his eight against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday brings him up to an average of 7.2 assists per game so far this season, which is also a career-high for the fourth-year guard. As the Blazers continue to develop chemistry on the court, we can expect Lillard’s skills as a distributor to be on full display. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian offers some perspective on Lillard’s leap on the offensive end:

Through 16 games, the two-time All-Star is averaging 25.1 points and 7.2 assists per game, which ranks sixth and seventh, respectively, in the NBA. He and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City's All-Star point guard, are the only players who rank among the Top 10 in both categories and the only two who have recorded at least 400 points and 100 assists so far.

Lillard's 7.2 assists are a career-high, and if he can increase his production only slightly in scoring and rebounding, he can pull off a rare feat by the end of the season, becoming just the second player since 1985 to rank among the top 5 in scoring and assists.

Freeman also notes that the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge may have something to do with Lillard’s increased proficiency:

The Blazers' offense used to be built around LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, a style that stalled offensive movement and limited assist opportunities for Lillard and other Blazers guards. How many times over the last three years did you see Lillard — or Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews — dump the ball into the left block and sprint to the other side of the floor, clearing space for Aldridge to operate one-on-one?

Now, without a lethal low-post threat like Aldridge, the Blazers' offense features more cutting, more screening, more movement. As a byproduct, Lillard is seeing more chances to create scoring chances for teammates through alley-oops, backdoor cuts, pin-downs, cross-court flares, pick-and-rolls and fast breaks.

Freeman’s full article can be found here and is worth the read. Can Lillard keep up these impressive numbers? His current total of 115 assists ranks third in the league, behind Rajon Rondo (162) and Russell Westbrook (152).