Sports

Has Damian Lillard Become Underrated?

Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on before the game against the Orlando Magic at Moda Center on February 08, 2022 in Portland, Oregon.
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

 

The Portland Trail Blazers are going to have a new look in the 2022-23 NBA season, as they’ve made some major changes to their roster since the calendar flipped to 2022.

One thing that remains the same, however, is the presence of superstar guard Damian Lillard.

Lillard has spent his entire NBA career with the Blazers, and it seems like there’s a pretty good chance he’ll retire with them.

During his 10 years with Portland, the 32-year-old has made a name for himself across the NBA and established himself as a Blazers icon.

However, he hasn’t been able to get the organization over the hump in the playoffs, as the Blazers haven’t made it any further than the Western Conference Finals during Lillard’s stint with the team.

A lot of NBA fans view that as a blemish on Lillard’s resume, and it’s something he’d surely like to change before he walks away from the game he loves.

Last season, he didn’t exactly get a chance to make a playoff run, as his season was cut short due to injury.

He only played in 29 games before his season ended, and while he was out, the Blazers traded away some key players and missed the playoffs by a landslide.

Lillard underwhelmed from a production standpoint in his 29 games last season, and since he missed so much of the campaign, a lot of fans seemingly forgot about him.

As a result of those factors, there’s a real argument to be made that the guard has become underrated.

 

1 Bad Year

It’s true that Lillard’s 2021-22 campaign was disappointing by his standards.

While he averaged 24.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, he struggled from an efficiency standpoint, as he shot just 40.2 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from deep.

For reference, he averaged 28.8 points per game in the 2020-21 season while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

The season before that, he went for 30.0 points per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from beyond the arc.

So, yes, his 2021-22 campaign was underwhelming.

But down years do happen, especially when a player:

  • is battling an injury
  • plays in a small sample size of games

Both of those things were factors for Lillard last season.

Fortunately, he’s back to full strength heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

It’s fair to have questions about how the veteran will perform in the upcoming season and beyond, but it seems like some fans have forgotten that Lillard is one of the NBA’s very best shot creators, shooters, and playmakers when he’s healthy.

He’s a six-time All-Star for a reason, and he’d surely love to reach the All-Star Game for a seventh time in the upcoming season.

The Blazers seem like a play-in team as currently constructed, but if Lillard plays like his vintage self this season, there’s no reason to believe the team won’t sneak into the playoffs and surprise some folks.

One thing is for sure: Lillard is going to do everything in his power to remind the league who he is in the 2022-23 campaign.




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