Beginning with the first week of 2014, Los That Sports Blog will be bringing you a new weekly feature called ‘NBA Report’, where we give you our take on the latest happenings and trends in the National Basketball League. You can find previous versions of the NBA Report here. Feel free to comment and let us know what you think!
Damian Lillard is the real deal. Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard came out of seemingly nowhere to blossom into a lottery pick last year and budding star, and it’s no fluke. Lillard has proven time and again this season that he’s capable of hanging with the best in the league and appears on his way to an All-Star selection in just his second season with per game averages of 21.6 points, 5.7 assists and shooting .446 from three-point range while also leading the NBA in made threes. Even Kobe Bryant thinks Lillard is a stud.
Not bad for a kid out of Weber State and that was born and raised in Oakland, Cali.
Let’s take a look at Lillard’s shot chart so far this season:
As you can seem Lillard does the majority of his damage from the outside. He takes an average of 7.4 threes a game and shoots the long ball effortlessly, which helps with his accuracy and he’s especially deadly from the wings. His outside shooting makes Lillard one of the most dangerous shoot-first PGs in the league.
But Lillard isn’t just an outside gunner; solid athlete who attacks the basket, but at 6-3, 195 lbs. and with a 39.5 vertical (per Draftexpress.com) Lillard could stand to do a little better job of finishing as his 38.7% from inside the paint would indicate. As a comparison, John Wall, one of the NBA’s best at getting to the rim, shoots 59% in the paint. Tony Parker — who’s made a career as a PG who lives in the painted area — is successful on 55.6% of his shots in the lane.
Lillard could also add a mid range jumper to his game. Right now, midrange jumpers (8-24 ft.) make up only 18.6% of his offensive repertoire. Chris Paul, arguably the NBA’s best midrange shooter, takes over half of his shots in that range (56.21%).
As a player, Lillard compares favorably to Steve Francis. Both are around the same height and played similar styles. Lillard and Francis even produced similar stat lines through their first two seasons, per Basketball-Reference.com:
Lillard is the more prolific outside shooter and Francis the better rebounder, but the comparison is valid. Injuries cut Francis’ career short, but hopefully the same fate doesn’t fall upon Lillard, as he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Thunder are just mediocre without Westbrook: The Oklahoma City Thunder were 23-5 before point guard Russell Westbrook had knee surgery that will have him sideline until sometime in February. Without Westbrook in the lineup, OKC in 4-4 and have suffered losses to the Nets, Jazz and Nugets, all teams they should be able to beat if Westbrook healthy.
Fact is, the Thunder just do not have enough firepower without Russy. Kevin Durant has had to take on an even larger scoring role — which he can handle and is averaging 34.4 ppg in the eight games without Westbrook — but there’s no telling on a nightly basis where the addition offense is going to come from. Reggie Jackson has averaged 14.6 ppg as Westbrook’s fill in, but he’s been wildly inconsistent. So have sixth man Jeremy Lamb (who shot 1-12 against Denver Thursday night) and Serge Ibaka has been banged up recently.
As great as he is, Durant can’t carry this group of players deep into the postseason alone. Westbrook may take some terrible shots from time to time, but he’s evidently exactly the type of player needed to compliment Durant and get the Thunder back to the NBA Finals.
Other notes: The Golden State Warriors had their franchise record 10-game winning streak snapped Wednesday by the Nets, who have played much better as of late. The New York Knicks have won three in a row and at 13-22 are now just 4 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead. Anderson Varajeo has averaged 10.7 ppg and 13.6 rebounds since being inserted as the Cleveland Cavaliers starting center after Andrew Bynum was suspended. Knicks guard Iman Shumpert has knocked down 17 of his last 28 three-point attempts (60.7%) and averaging 15.8 ppg over his past five games. Carmelo Anthony has hit 14 of 26 threes in that same span, and the Knicks are 4-1 in those past five games. Despite his hideous form, Kendall Marshall still has exceptional court vision and currently hold a 47.5 field goal percentage in eight games. But the Lakers are only 1-7 in those games and 1-3 with Marshall as a starter.
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