Damian Lillard is a machine. All this 23-year-old kid has done since being drafted No. 6 overall last year by the Portland Trail Blazers is dominate on a level we rarely see from a first- or second-year player. Last year he swept Rookie of the Month honors and won the Rookie of the Year award in a landslide victory — you know, like the ones teams are getting against the Jazz this season. I’m sorry, I’m sorry but I could not resist; hey at least they’ll get Wiggins! I digress — Lillard has been on a mission since this season’s opening tip and he has a real chance of hitting the first of his many goals this year.
“I Want to be an All-Star”
Lillard sat down with Matt Moore of CBS Sports in the offseason and had this to say:
“I think it’s always been internal. I always had high expectations for myself. If I go to a baseball field, if I’m playing with Major League Baseball players, I expect to play well. It comes from my family, too. They always made me believe it. Anytime I was playing basketball or football, they were telling me I belong out there. I started to take that attitude out there. Why not be an All-Star? I believe it can happen. As long as I believe it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”
Clearly, Lillard isn’t lacking confidence; and for good reason. His team is off to a, dare I say, blazing start at 9-2 after their 108-98 victory over the hapless New Je….errr Brooklyn Nets Monday night and he is the lead guard of that squad. If they keep this pace up — which is quite hard to believe — Lillard would stand a chance to be selected by the West coach, if not voted by fans. His numbers are anything but pedestrian at 20 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per night while lowering his turnovers per game to 2.3 after posting three per game last season. The issue? The competition is unreal right now — so the problem will not be that he isn’t deserving; it might just be that there aren’t enough spots.
Let’s go ahead and assume that both Chris Paul and Stephen Curry are locks at the guard position for the 2014 All-Star Game. Paul is playing at an MVP level, Curry isn’t far behind and both are perennial fan favorites to boot. Last year three point guards made the roster: Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. If my math is correct (gets calculator out) then that only leaves ONE spot for Lillard to sneak into somehow. “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!!”.
Again, Lillard is a deserving candidate so far but it’s far from a slam dunk that he will make the All-Star roster this season. Of course, team success will play into a player’s chances so if the Blazers can keep this momentum up, then his stock will rise accordingly. However, his shooting percentages need to be much more efficient in my opinion. Lillard is sitting at 39.9 percent overall from the floor and an even 40 percent from 3-point range — so right now he’s basically an average shooter. His efficiency needs to rise AND he needs to start getting his teammates involved much more, which will equate to more assists.
Here are some of the other guys battling for that All-Star spot as well: Ty Lawson, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio and Jrue Holiday. If anyone has the confidence needed to pull this off, it’s Lillard — but he’s got a long way to go before he can be called an All-Star in the NBA.
Agree or disagree — let me know on twitter: @Chris_Reichert