Damian Lillard is many things to the Portland Trail Blazers: All-Star, scoring leader, face of the franchise. A recent run of superlative play—married to consistent production and a never-ending bag of tricks—may push him to similar status across the whole NBA. In his weekly “10 Things I Like and Don’t Like” column, ESPN columnist Zach Lowe waxes poetic about Lillard’s evolution this season.
Sometimes you know a player has made a mini-leap even if the numbers don’t show it. Statistically, Lillard is the same player he was last season. But something is different. He has mastered almost every skill-within-a-skill on offense, and he knows it...
...When you can do everything -- and when you know you can do everything -- it frees you from worrying about how defenses scheme. You can start with whatever move you prefer, confident you have a counter for any response.
Lowe compares Lillard’s growth with the similar arc of a two-time MVP and current World Champion:
Lillard is playing with an icy, manipulative calm. Steph Curry has displayed a similar evolution this season. It doesn’t really show up in the numbers -- beyond perhaps a jump in Curry’s free throw attempts -- but from the opener, you could just tell he had the game on a string.
Lillard is there now, too.
Lowe has much more on Lillard, plus love for the Houston Rockets, grief for the Detroit Pistons, and appreciation of former Blazers forward Nicolas Batum and his new partnership with former Blazers free-agent target Dwight Howard.