Is Damian Lillard the most dangerous offensive player in the NBA going into the season restart in Orlando?
It's a question I asked myself over the weekend.
For my money, a healthy Stephen Curry is the best offensive player in the NBA. Kevin Durant - again, when healthy - is a close second, but with neither of those players participating in the NBA return, I wondered if Lillard was the guy.
Lillard is averaging 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game this season, both career highs. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 26.2 and True Shooting Percentage (TS%) of 61.9 percent are also both career highs. The fact that he's been able to elevate his production and increase his efficiency alongside it makes him a stone-cold lock for All-NBA again this season.
Let's face it, not many people outside of Portland are locked into what Lillard is doing on a game-to-game basis. We see the highlights, we see the big scoring outputs, but what Lillard has been able to do this season has been a sensation offensively.
According to Basketball-Reference, Lillard leads the league in both offensive win shares (8.9) and offensive box score plus-minus (7.9). Leading the league in one or the other usually means you're having a pretty good season offensively, but the combination of both usually means you're playing at an MVP level.
Since LeBron James won the MVP in 2012-13, the league leader in both offensive win shares and offensive box score plus-minus has won the award four of the last seven seasons.
|MVP Season||Off. Win Shares||Off. Box Score Plus-minus||Led league in both categories|
So how has it happened? How did Lillard go from being a good offensive player to potentially the biggest threat in the league?
The answer is simple - range.
Like Curry, Lillard has become a threat the minute he crosses halfcourt. He's been phenomenal from three this season, shooting 39.4 percent at high volume, but upping his degree of difficulty this season has forced defences to guard him much further out than they could have ever imagined.
According to NBA Stats, on shots from 30-34 feet- which some might call Curry range - Lillard is shooting 41.2 percent. It doesn't stop there. On shots even further out (35-39 feet), Lillard is shooting 66.7 percent. For context, Curry has never taken more than five shots in an entire season from that range and he shot 40% on those looks.
Is Dame as good of a shooter as Curry? No, but his range has now extended further than where the former two-time MVP typically shoots from and that has given Portland more options on the offensive end and made Lillard a more potent offensive weapon.
Over the final eight games of the regular season, they'll be a lot more eyes on the Trail Blazers and ultimately Lillard. It will give more people an opportunity to appreciate not only what Lillard has done this season, but how he's been able to do it.
Lillard is without a doubt one of the best offensive threats in the game. With the brightest of spotlights on Orlando and the NBA restart, maybe he'll emerge as the league's premier offensive threat.
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