Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will miss some time due to a strained right calf, but before the injury, the six-time All-Star showed he’s still an offensive wunderkind. Through five appearances in the young NBA season, Lillard is scoring 31 points per game, making him one of nine players averaging over 30.
With that list expected to thin as the season progresses — Joel Embiid and LeBron James were the only players to average over 30 last season — Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley ranked the likeliest players to still be averaging a 30-piece come April. In the piece, Lillard slotted in at No. 5.
Buckley wrote Lillard’s ability to shoot from long-range and burst to the rim, along with his seismic slice in Portland’s offensive pie chart, makes him a solid bet.
This version of Lillard renders opposing defenses powerless. Give him an inch, and he’ll pull from anywhere. Crowd him, and he’ll explode to the rim before you can react. Throw the kitchen sink at him, and he’ll either manage to score anyway or punish you with his passing.
Assuming good health, all of the ingredients are present for a 30-point average.
He has no major threats for touches. Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant are heavily involved, but they won’t seize control away from Lillard. He has never averaged fewer than 35 minutes per game, and Portland probably doesn’t have the depth to make that cut now.
While his shooting percentages are up (49.5 overall, 39.2 outside), they don’t feel unsustainably elevated.
On Buckley’s list, Lillard sat behind Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.
Currently in his 11th NBA season, Lillard has averaged at least 30 points per game through an entire season once in his career. That feat came during the 2019-20 campaign, which saw Lillard average a career-high 37.5 minutes per game and exactly 30 points in 67 games played.
What do you think Rip City? Will Lillard reach that elusive benchmark again this season?