As a collective NBA fan base we’ve been gifted a unique opportunity here, with the 14-15 Blazers all but a distant memory, one man remains. You know him as Dame.
Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard is in a rare position to rip the league apart, without remorse, and free of criticism from the masses. Lillard is a scorer, a shooter, a high usage player, and most importantly he has the Rod Tidwellesque chip on his shoulder.
Coming out of a mid-major program in College, Lillard admitted he had a lot to prove, and that’s what he set out to do. That hungry, angry, resilience never died. Lillard became the first player ever to participate in all five All-Star events, what’s more he did it in his sophomore season. He followed up a stellar sophomore season with his second straight All-Star appearance in 2015. Although comically, it did take a personal letter to get him in there.
Lillard has come a very long way, over-looked college prospect to NBA All-Star is quite the jump. All that being said, one could argue this is the first year that the Portland Trail Blazers will be Lillard’s team. In a jaw-dropping move LaMarcus Aldridge took his talents to Alamo City, leaving the young and ever defiant Lillard to carry the red and black solo.
Aldridge was the big splash, but the Blazers were mucking around in the mud all off-season. In-fact, the entire Blazers starting line-up is gone. Aldridge, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Robin Lopez are all pursuing the Larry O’Brien in different digs this year. A team only two years removed from a shocking defeat of the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs is no more.
The ever bubbly Lopez is adding some much needed flavour to the Phil Jackson Knicks. DeAndre Jordan didn’t want to be a Maverick, but Matthews saw that money and never looked back. Batum didn’t have much say in the matter as the Blazers dealt him for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh early in the off-season.
The poised and pesky Blazers of 2013-14 are no more, the next era in Portland is underway. Replacing the polished and veteran teammates of Mr. Lillard are a rag-tag bunch of young prospects and second chance veterans.
What does that mean for Lillard and the Blazers? Let’s take a look;
|Player / Previous / Current||Career Usage Percentage||Career Field Goal Attempts Per Game|
|*Denotes promoted Blazer|
Stats from basketball-reference.com
Yes, of course the numbers won’t stand. Players will step up, given more time on the floor Leonard, Harkless, and MIP candidate McCollum will take more shots. That being said there’s a lot of possessions to be claimed on this Blazers squad. Possessions which I personally hope Lillard gobbles with an appetite only White Goodman could understand.
I’ve been a visible and aggressive presence on social media slaying the NBA’s elite for shooting too often, wasting possessions, and showing selfish tendencies. However, this is different. No one expects the Blazers to do anything, they aren’t going to the playoffs, they are enduring the struggle of a fresh hot rebuild.
Unlike the Sixers, the Blazers believe they have their franchise point guard under contract. We don’t have to watch 40 guys fighting for a roster spot. Similar to the post-Shaq Lakers, we can optimistically watch a star burn his brightest.
That’s the beauty of it, if the Blazers make real noise wonderful. Everyone loves the underdog story, especially if that story comes behind 30 points per game from Lillard launching in the spotlight. If they don’t, Lillard has a chance to give us the NBA’s equivalent to the WWE Smack Down. Some manufactured entertainment, some monstrous empty numbers, stuffing box scores, and stealing highlight shows. I’m talking 2006 Kobe Bryant or 2002 Allen Iverson, Lillard has a chance to put up the eye popping numbers without worry of media slander.
In the last 25 years only Bryant, Iverson, and 1993 Michael Jordan have taken 25+ shots. Jordan did it while winning a Championship, how GOAT like. While Lillard won’t reach that absurd of a shot total (unfortunately), we can hope for 20-22. In the past 25 years the aforementioned three, Chris Webber, Dominique Wilkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Bernard King, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Tracy McGrady all attempted 22+ shots in a single season.
Shrinking the microscope even more, we can look at 2006-07 Gilbert Arenas. Firing up nearly 21 shots a game, resulting in 28.4 points per game, he led the Wizards to a dull 41 wins. That sad, sad, win total resulted in a playoff birth for Washington. A playoff birth and 41 wins might be impossible in today’s Western Conference, but the per game totals and shooting percentages (42-35-84), are definitely within Lillard’s reach.
In the age of analytics, tanking, and constant criticism we can’t be certain the Blazers are going to set Lillard loose on the warpath. Not everyone has the Quan, Lillard has it in spades.