Thursday, December 29, 2016

Is Damian Lillard Hurting The Blazers?

Damian Lillard.jpg
By nikk_la - Flickr: K26A0442, CC BY 2.0, Link
In a recent interview with New York Magazine, George Karl shared his thoughts on the performance from the Trailblazers this season saying, "I was watching the Portland Trailblazers play, and I was trying to figure out, What the hell is wrong with this team? My conclusion is that Damian Lillard is getting too much attention." 

When asked to elaborate on that thought George Karl went on to say, "Who controls the team? The coach and the point guard. And that team is not working. I think their coach, Terry Stotts, is a great coach. So I’m going to say the problem is Lillard. They were a together, connected, committed team last year. This year they’re not. What changed?"

That's right George Karl, what changed? They lost Chris Kaman but gained talents in Festus Ezeli (who is injured) and Evan Turner. So what changed? How can nearly the same team from last year take such a big drop off. 

Is it Damian Lillard? If we take a look at his numbers this year, he is averaging 27 PPG (he averaged 25.1 last season), 4.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.7 turnovers. If we look at his turnovers, they've dropped from last season (3.2) however his assists have also dropped from last season (6.2) so this doesn't really mean much. It just means he is passing less right? Wrong, thanks to's provided stats, it shows that Damian Lillard is has about 1.5 passes per game more this season than last season. It's very, very minimal, but it shows that he is still passing but getting less assists and turnovers. To top all of this off, Lillard is scoring more while taking less shots per game. So why are they losing? 

The reason why... His teammates. This season, 4 players on the Blazers shoot under 36% when receiving a pass from Damian Lillard. 5 players on the Blazers shoot under 40% from the field in general. Last season, only 3 players shot under 40% and those 3 players only combined for a total of 81 games played. And to top that off, in the minimal amount of games that these players played in, they didn't even average over 10 minutes per game. But this season, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard, and Al-Farouq Aminu are all shooting under 40% and they all are huge parts in this offense. And when given passes from Lillard, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner both shoot below 36%. 

If we look at the team's rebounding, you'd see that the Trailblazers are 25th in rebounding. First off, you can tell they truely miss Chris Kaman as they are waiting for Festus Ezeli to recover. Their bigs aren't that great. Second, they aren't making shots, and to me, that falls on 1 person, the coach. Something has changed. Now, I love Terry Stotts, he is an amazing coach, but something needs to change with the offense. You can't have all of these players shooting that poorly. It's clearly changed from last season. Ed Davis isn't even shooting nearly as well from last season, it's bad. Sure while Lillard and McCollum might be shooting better, but the rest of the team sure isn't. You can't win games with 1 or two people shooting really well. Something in the offense has to change, and, oh yeah, they really need to rebound better.

But hang on here, George Karl was completely wrong. Damian Lillard has been more efficient and has has less turnovers while scoring more and while passing the ball even more than last season. This man isn't the reason and is really going unnoticed for how hard he is working. It's not translating to many wins, but it sure should be. If anything, Terry Stotts needs to make adjustments which is ironic considering Karl's quote saying, "I think their coach, Terry Stotts, is a great coach. So I’m going to say the problem is Lillard". I love Terry Stotts but he needs to make adjustments, and for George Karl, it's best if he just keeps his mouth shut.