There is an unmistakable moxie to Damian Lillard's game.
There is an unmistakable moxie to Lillard that serves as a guiding principle of his play. Whatever shot the defense gives, he’ll take; Lillard isn’t shy about stepping into long three-pointers or pulling up early on defenses daft enough to give him room. He keeps his balance and his wits about him on the toughest of shots, finding ways to connect on a larger percentage than would seem reasonable. The volume of what Lillard can generate is more than enough to lead an offense and the range of looks he creates is more than enough to keep it viable. Scorers of his magnitude essentially force a defense into mistakes. Either opponents overplay Lillard so severely that his teammates are left wide open or they leave themselves vulnerable to Lillard’s incendiary shooting game. There are no safe plays or right answers—all because Lillard himself nixes them. Unfortunately, Lillard is the sort of defender all but guaranteed to give points back in the exchange. He will go through stretches of games where his investment and attention to detail pay off in the form of passable coverage. More often, Lillard is the defender allowing a clear driving lane to his man or stepping out of position at an inopportune time. The problem with hiding players like Lillard, too, is that their height becomes an exploitable factor in cross-match situations. Stashing Lillard on a lesser scoring threat won’t fully protect him from being worked over in the post or left flat-footed as an opponent shoots over the top. Teams would still gladly take that tradeoff because Lillard works offensively in a way so few other players can. You hide Lillard when possible, you protect him through your system, and if all else fails, you take solace in the fact that one of the most dangerous scorers in the game will take every target as a slight. (Last year: No. 24)
+ Ranked ninth in points generated via assist per game
+ Does a surprisingly effective job of getting into the mix as a rebounder
– A poor enough defender that it can be difficult to even hide him
– Subpar finisher on contested layups