The recent struggles of the Portland Trail Blazers as a team is disappointing, so rather than focus on the bad, today’s stats talk will be about the absolutely absurd season Damian Lillard is having so far.
Lillard’s stats so far this season are eye-popping, even if the team’s results do not reflect their stature: 30.5 points per game, on 48.2 percent shooting, 38.6 percent from three, and a PER of 28.7. The amount of guards (or guards that sometimes played small forward for fairness) that have put those numbers up across a whole season?
NBA Shooting Seasons
|Isaiah Thomas Jr.||2016-2017||28.9||46.3||37.9||26.5|
Mind you, those numbers don’t always mean an MVP award, despite none of them happening in the same year. Of those eight occurrences, only two resulted in MVP trophies: Stephen Curry in 2015-2016 with the 73 win Golden State Warriors, and Michael Jordan with the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls, widely considered one of the single best seasons by any player in the history of the league. Argument can be had that Jordan was robbed by Karl Malone in 1996-1997, or Carter by Allen Iverson in 2000-2001, or Curry by Russell Westbrook in 2017-2018.
So the area that Lillard is in is filled with some of the best shooters to ever play the game (and Isaiah Thomas Jr.). This is despite opposing teams throwing defenders at Lillard at half court at a higher rate than ever before. This is done primarily because Lillard leads the NBA in made shots from 30 feet or further, with nine. It is not simply volume that has done that either. From 30 feet or further, Lillard is shooting 9-of-20 for 45%. That includes a beyond half court end of quarter heave, which nearly went in. The only other player with 15 or more shots from beyond 30 feet is Trae Young, who is 5-of-15. Lillard has taken the idea of limitless range and is providing a case that he should be the face of that moniker, not Curry. You need only ask Paul George about that.
So while the team may be falling short of expectations at the moment, by some combination of chemistry, injuries, or simply not playing to the level of capability, Lillard is showing yet again that he is capable of putting the team on his back.