The annual ESPN Rankings of NBA Players may give Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard a little extra motivation headed into the 2022-23 NBA season. As if returning from abdominal surgery to a revamped lineup with high expectations wasn’t enough, Lillard can now use the four-letter network’s list as bulletin board material, as they left him out of the ranks of Top 10 NBA Players for the first time this decade.
Lillard finished 14th in the survey, down from 8th a year ago and 7th in 2020.
ESPN describe Lillard’s ranking so:
Lillard was six spots higher a year ago before being limited to 29 underwhelming games by a core muscle injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery. Lillard’s numbers dropped across the board in 2021-22, most notably his 32% accuracy from 3-point range after hitting better than 39% the previous two seasons. Lillard had been playing through pain for years until the injury worsened after the Tokyo Olympics. But he should be healthy now.
They also claimed the biggest question facing Lillard was fit with fellow backcourt mate Anfernee Simons, who replaced long-tenured CJ McCollum in the shooting guard role last season after McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans,
Lillard ranked just above Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, at 17th, 16th, and 15th, respectively. He finished just below 13th-ranked Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, 12th-ranked Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, and 11th-ranked James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers.
ESPN describes the ranking process as follows:
ESPN’s NBArank panel, composed of over 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, were asked to rank players based on their predicted contributions — quality and quantity — for the 2022-23 season only.
The ten top-ranked players have yet to be revealed.