by S.A. Prince
Let’s not beat around the bush here. For the second year in a row, Damian Lillard was not selected as an All-Star reserve even though he was a top ten scorer both years. While many basketball enthusiasts feel he’s been snubbed, I can assure you this is not the case.
Damian Lillard can be electrifying. Can… He has range from beyond the three point line, and can get to the rim with relative ease. All that being said, Lillard too often disappears in games that matter.When facing off against other top point guards, he rarely outplays them.
Lillard, while indeed talented, is not even the best player on his team. That’s C.J. McCollum. I’ll admit. That might be a reach. Of the two guards, McCollum does draw the weaker defender. However, when it has mattered most, McCollum has appeared to be the more consistent scorer of the two.
Here’s a hypothetical: If McCollum had been drafted into the league before Lillard (their styles of play are eerily similar), who’s the franchise player today, Lillard or McCollum? I’d like to say Lillard, but I can’t definitively make that claim. For that alone, he isn’t an All-Star. All-Star players have to be a cut above.
It would be intellectually dishonest to put him in the conversation with the top point guards in his conference: Westbrook, Paul, Curry, and Harden, but he’s clearly not a tier 2 level guard. While the traditional point guard is a quickly fading player type, Lillard’s lack of assists this year hurt him. Comparatively, he does average more assists per game than Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker (2016-2017 Eastern Conference All-Star reserve), but Kemba has a higher assist percentage, meaning that Walker assists on a greater number of his team’s scoring plays.
The biggest indictment against Lillard is his play against other top point guards. Let’s look at some of his games logs:
Against Cleveland and Boston (or Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas), Lillard didn’t play well in any of those games (shot under 43% from field, under 30% from beyond the arc). He didn’t even shoot 40% from the field against Charlotte (1/16), and Washington (1/18), both teams that have All-Star guards. During this time period, Lillard had two quality games, those two being against Memphis (1/27) and Charlotte (1/31), and he did play well against Golden State on 1/29, but Curry did not play on that night.
To Lillard’s credit, he does have a stretch of quality play against top point guards. Check out his mid-December numbers below (12/12, 12/13, 12/15, 12/17). Those are good games. Still, when looking at his season thus far, a season where he’s shooting a career low from behind the arc, who could’ve justified naming him an All-Star?
The answer is nobody.