Damian Lillard’s greatness is obvious to anybody following the Portland Trail Blazers this season. The problem is, few people without an already-invested interest do so, as Portland’s 31-36 record doesn’t stand out from the Western Conference crowd.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe is not among the casual passers-by. In this week’s 10 Things column [subscription required], Lowe praises Lillard’s phenomenal work this year.
Lillard is on the scoring run of his life for a Portland Trail Blazers team that isn’t healthy, stable, or good enough to turn those binges of points into wins. Portland is 5-9 in its past 14 games, and has fallen into a tie for 12th.
Lillard is averaging a career-best 32.3 points — trailing only Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic. The threat of his pull-up 3 extends defenses toward their breaking points, opening up for drives for Lillard.
Lillard is seizing on those chances with head-down fury. He’s averaging a career-high 22 drives per 100 possessions, and regularly dusting both defenders — his own, and the guy on his screener — at the point of attack.
Lillard invites contact. He’s averaging 9.4 free throws, fifth overall and by far a career high. He has attempted 14 or more in six of his past 16 games.
The Blazers have scored 1.23 points per possession when Lillard shoots off a drive, or dishes to a teammate who fires — 10th among 245 players with at least 100 drives, per Second Spectrum.
Lowe also talks about the Lakers, Magic, and hidden gems around the league in his column.