Fresh off his NBA 2K22 ranking in the Top 10, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard continued to garner respect from the form of preseason player rankings. In HoopsHype’s Top 22 Point Guard Rankings for the 2021-22 Season, Lillard landed at No. 2 on the list.
HoopsHype writer Frank Urbina said Lillard’s offensive gifts are enough to overlook the Blazers’ recent struggles. Namely, Urbina cited Lillard’s high-level performance in the clutch as justification for his high ranking.
Among players with at least 75 field-goal attempts in what the NBA deems to be “clutch situations,” i.e. when there are fewer than five minutes remaining and the scoreline is within five points either way, Lillard led all of them in field-goal percentage last year at 51.1 percent, ranked second in three-point percentage at 39.1 percent and ranked No. 1 in clutch free-throw shooting at 94.7 percent.
Dame Time is very real and not just savvy branding.
At age 31, Lillard was placed ahead of NBA veterans such as Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul (No. 5 on the list) and Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving (No. 3), as well as young up-and-comers like Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young (No. 4).
Taking the No. 1 spot in HoopsHype’s list, was a player who Lillard is forever compared with, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Despite Golden State’s exit in the play-in tournament, Curry’s league-best 32 points per game, along with 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds were enough to give him the edge over the field. Urbina said Curry’s scorching close to the season was especially impressive, even for the two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion.
What’s more, when the Golden State Warriors needed him most, late in the campaign fighting for a spot in the play-in tournament, Curry elevated his game to an even higher level. Over the last 24 games of 2020-21, the two-time league MVP averaged 36.9 points nightly and shot 43.7 percent from three on nearly 15 such attempts per contest.
In other notable placements on the list, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons, often linked to the Blazers in trade rumors this offseason, landed at No. 9. Point guard Lonzo Ball may have gotten a big pay day in free agency this offseason with the Chicago Bulls, but he trailed his younger brother in the rankings. The older Ball brother ranked No. 15 on the list while the younger Ball, Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, was placed No. 11 heading into his sophomore campaign.
Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who knocked Lillard out of the Western Conference All-Star Team’s starting lineup this past season, wasn’t classified as a point guard in these rankings.