Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Damian Lillard Is The Best PG In America

I know, that is a bold statement to make. He likely won't win any major awards or be an All-American this year, but that is not his fault, it is simply a matter of where he plays college basketball.

On the court, he has performed better than anyone else at the position in the country. I have chosen to compare him to the Bob Cousy Award finalists (of which he is one), because I figured that would be a good representative of the best PGs in the country (it leaves out guys like Tu Holloway and Myck Kabongo, but I feel pretty comfortable with that list based on everyone's play this year). Let's look at some of the data (all stats thru Monday):

You will have to click the link to see an enlarged photo of the stats. It should be easy to tell, but I have highlighted in green the leader on each statistic. Obviously I have cherry picked some stats, but I think they are pretty representative areas needs for good PG play. This is a rudimentary way of looking at things, but it gives us a base to work from.

Looking at the numbers, this is what I see about Damian Lillard's game:
- He is the best scoring PG in America - He leads the country in scoring, so obviously he is the leader among all PGs. In fact, nobody is really close. Isaiah Canaan of Murray State scores 18.9 PPG, but that is still more than six points per game off of Lillard's mark. Lillard has two forty point games this year, and has scored 30+ points seven different times this year. He lights up the scoreboard.
- He is the best rebounding PG among the top PGs - This is less important because a point guard's main function is not to rebound, but it goes to show that he has an excellent all-around game.
- He shoots free throws better than everyone else, and he gets to the line more than the rest - His FT percentage is great, and there are not many guys in the country that get to the line as much as he does (nearly eight times per game). If you are reading a blog about basketball, obviously I don't need to explain the importance of this.
- He is the most efficient offensive scorer among the group - This goes hand in hand with him being the best scoring PG, but I think the distinction is important to make that he puts up his numbers efficiently. I just talked about the FT shooting, but he shoots over 50% inside the arc and over 46% beyond the arc. Aaron Craft has a higher percentage of 2's made (on more limited attempts), and Pierre Jackson shoots a little better from downtown, but nobody combines those things with the propensity to get to the stripe and knock them down quite like he does.
- He takes great care of the ball - Jordan Taylor is a guy that has basically made a living on not turning the ball over, but Lillard's TO Rate is a little bit lower even than his so far this season. Lillard's TO Rate combined with his usage rate is quite simply exceptional.

I can understand the arguments to be made for others, and I would imagine that chief among them would be the fact that Lillard plays an easier schedule than most or all of the guys I have compared him to. I understand that in essence basketball can be a pirate game with everyone fighting for the highest numbers of the season.. If the numbers were close, I think that is a point that would tilt in someone else's favor.

But, the fact is that on a raw number's comparison, Lillard blows the rest of the guys away. His all-around game is something that no other PG in the country can match, and that is why if I had one PG to run my team this season, Damian Lillard would be that PG.

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  1. GREAT article. It's been a joy watching Lillard play. Thanks for giving him the credit he deserves. He is a great ambassador for my alma mater.

  2. Damian Lillard is an amazing young man. It was fun watching him play when WSU came out to Sacramento, and he's probably the best interview I've ever done in my journalism career. A very respectful and well-spoken young man and absolutely wish him the best in life.

  3. Thanks for chiming in Bryan... always good to hear when the athletes that are so good are nice people as well, makes it much easier to root for them!

  4. Whoever was the ESPN analyst that wrote the recruiting report on Damian Lillard in 2007 or 2008 was brilliant! He was a steal recruit! How far can this team go?