Despite piecing together a rèsumè that’s largely uncommon among players through nine seasons, Damian Lillard’s standing among the NBA 75th Anniversary team has become a point of contention. Earlier this week, two of the panelists, Bill Simmons and Bob Ryan, took to the Bill Simmons Podcast to explain their rationale why Lillard’s selection was rightfully-deserved.
Ryan made mention of the group’s diversity, as evidenced by how many players from the last half-century made it. He broached the subject of being fair to the current generation, too, confirming that Lillard was the final selection on this list.
I guess that’s not a popular pick with some people, but I couldn’t get away from his numbers, Bill. That was just an example. He’s the, he would be the one that I felt I had to pay homage to.
Simmons noted that he too had Lillard on his list. For Lillard, it put him in rarefied air as one of just three current players to not even play a full decade — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Lillard — and still earn a nod.
Lillard opened the 2021-22 on a cold start, but has since warmed to the tune of 22.5 points and 8.0 assists with nine 3-pointers over the last two games, both double-digit wins for the Blazers. But for every tough shooting night or stretch, his candidacy will be unfairly called into question. Having two reputable voters explain his case helps to steady that negativity.
The two also expressed surprise that former Blazer Carmelo Anthony made it, but players of a similar archetype, such as Adrian Dantley and Bernard King, weren’t present.
They also offered some thoughts on the developing comparisons between the play styles of Bill Walton and Nikola Jokic. Ryan, in particular, had remarkably high praise for Walton.
Bill Walton is the greatest What If in basketball history. And yet, he does have an accomplishment as an MVP, and as the man who was the focal point of a championship team which was, had it stayed together and should’ve, and if he had not have gotten hurt, I think would’ve won multiple championships. It would’ve gone down as one of the great dynasties in NBA history, the Portland Trail Blazers of ‘77.
He closed by calling Walton the “greatest two-way center in the history of basketball,” and saying that if the universe were on the line, Walton would have been the first player he picked.
The rest of the podcast can be found here, where they delved even deeper into the Walton vs. Jokic comparisons, and storylines across the NBA.