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Damian Lillard Impresses Zach Lowe with Rim Scoring, Earning Potential

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Lillard is getting to the hoop, getting fouled, and getting paid.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard is dazzling the NBA with his early-season play, and today he earned the headline spot in ESPN analyst Zach Lowe’s “10 Things I Like” column. Lillard is averaging 29 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, 40% from the arc so far this season, but Lowe’s praise goes beyond the basics.

He explains:

Lillard is shooting 64 percent at the rim, and earning 8.5 free throw attempts per game -- career highs. The Blazers have scored 1.45 points per possession on any trip featuring a Lillard drive, the second-best mark in the league among 72 players who have piled up at least 50 drives, per Second Spectrum data.

After showing and dissecting video highlights, Lowe also raises the All-NBA, super-max extension issue explained earlier this year by our own Eric Griffith.

If Lillard keeps this up, he’s absolutely making another All-NBA team -- triggering eligibility for a supermax extension this summer. That deal would kick in during Lillard’s 10th season, meaning it would inflate his salary for only that one campaign. (All players are eligible for the same maximum salary -- 35 percent of the cap -- after they have logged 10 seasons.) But earlier eligibility would accelerate Portland’s decision-making timetable -- if they even consider it a decision. (They probably should.)

Lowe has more on Lillard, plus the LakersKyle Kuzma, the super-heroic features of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the weird court change for the Brooklyn Nets, and more.