We are well and truly into the NBA postseason now, and what an amazing playoffs it has been so far. Plenty of teams and players have made their talents known to even the most casual of fans, strutting themselves on the biggest platform of all as their stars jump to new levels. Speaking strictly of players, no two have had more exciting and unpredictably positive playoff games than John Wall of the Washington Wizards and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. Both helped their teams advance past the first round, and both are currently doing battle with the top seed in their respective conferences. If you had to pick one player to have on your team though, which one would you choose?
The life of John Wall to this point has been one of ups and downs. The first pick in 2010 draft, a lot was expected of the former University of Kentucky standout. Like a lot of top picks though, he went to a poor team and struggled to adjust to all of the losing initially. Fast forward to the present day though, and Wall is the leader of a solid group of players including backcourt mate Bradley Beal, the ever-dependable Trevor Ariza and the rugged Nene Hilario.
Although he has only played in seven playoff games in what is his first venture into the postseason, so far there has been a lot to like–16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds, combined with only two turnovers a game for a guy who sees the ball a lot, is a playoff stat line that will help your team go places. In their opening-round series win over the Chicago Bulls, which wasn’t even that close, Wall didn’t have Derrick Rose to contend with. But nevertheless he went out there and got it done for his team, ensuring they moved on to the conference semifinals. Although their series against the Indiana Pacers could go either way at this point, Wall easily gets the better of opposition point guard George Hill. In fact, we can say with certainty that both Wall and the Wizards have overachieved this year, regardless of how that series goes.
Getting to better than .500 for the first time in five years midway through the season and also securing a playoff spot was deemed successful by most. Beating a weakened Bulls team and pushing the Pacers for a spot in the conference finals was unforeseen and points to a bright future for the franchise. Regardless of how the rest of the playoffs goes, John Wall has arrived on the big stage now. He is an All-Star, and in Beal he has a probable All-Star in the backcourt with him. The journey may end soon, but this team look like they are just getting started, and John Wall is a massive reason for that.
When you’ve hit the shot that won your team a series and is without question the moment of the playoffs so far, there really isn’t much more to say. If you’ve been paying attention since the beginning of the season, you will know that Damian Lillard has “it.”
What “it” is, we don’t entirely know, but it is something that all of the greats have had. We’re not about to compare Lillard to the really special players, at least not yet, he is still so young. But that little bit of magic that the superstars possess, this guy also has.
If you’ve seen the clip of his game-winning 3-pointer in Game 6 of the Blazers’ first-round series win over a Houston Rockets team many felt were dark horses to make the Finals, some things will stand out.
Lillard positively demanded the ball, such was his desire to seize the big moment. Also, a 2-pointer would have sent the game to overtime, but Lillard had the stones to believe he could win the game for his team, or take the heat if it went to Game 7. Finally, his celebration was as cool as you like, as if he knew this moment was coming years ago and so it didn’t faze him in the slightest.
Without exaggerating, that shot will be talked about for years to come. Without picking on Wall as well, because he has posted numbers that are more than just respectable, Lillard’s 23.6 points a game have been ridiculous. His five assists is less than Wall’s, and his 2.2 turnovers is slightly higher too, not a great combination. Clearly there is still some learning to do in terms of finding the right pass and taking care of the ball that little bit better, but really that is nitpicking. His player efficiency rating (league average 15) of 20.8 is impressive as well. Yes there have been some struggles against the mighty San Antonio Spurs and Lillard and the Blazers are currently down 2-0 in the series. But San Antonio is the complete team, and opposing point guard Tony Parker has been playing big games since Lillard was in high school. Portland isn’t ready to win a championship, not yet, but in Damian Lillard they have that key ingredient that could one day make that dream a possibility.
Both players have had great playoff runs to date this year, and as usual there is no real wrong answer. I would go with Lillard, simply because he closed out a series for him team and seems unfazed by absolutely everything. I’m almost afraid to big the guy up too much, that’s how good I feel he can be. Let’s not forget about Wall though. He has helped turn a toxic culture in Washington around and is the leader of an exciting team with a nice blend of youth and experience. He too will be an All-Star for years to come. But for achievements in this postseason alone, as well as potential going forward, give me “Dame” evert day of the week. Don’t agree with me? Leave a comment below explaining who you would rather have and why, or get in contact with me @LucaLockheart to tell me why I’m wrong! As usual, most votes wins!