A lot of people tend to forget about Damian Lillard when the topic of discussion is elite, top guards in the league. For some time now, Dame has been playing at a very high level, taking Portland on his back and carrying them to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons total in NBA. He has an average of 23,5 PPG, 4,2 RPG, 6,3 APG for his career, while shooting 43,4% from-the-field and 88,9% from the free-throw line. You can say that he is definitely a top 5 guard in the league. As we already mentioned, Lillard missed the playoffs only in his rookie year, a season in which he won the Rookie of the Year award. Other than that, he went in the postseason after a very good regular one all the time, being a top five team in the West on a regular basis, except in the 2016-17 season, when they finished 8th.
Damian Lillard has the ability to score the ball from far, off-the-dribble, can get to the rim and finish hard over defenders, shoots very well from mid-range and he has the clutch gene in him, as he closed some important games throughout his career, including the one with Houston Rockets in the First Round of the 2013-14 season, his sophomore year, when Dame hit the game-winning 3-pointer to advance the Trail Blazers in the next round. However, after the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, Damian Lillard didn’t really have another superstar to help him do some noise in the playoffs, and even if there are some who say that he, indeed, didn’t do very much coming into the postseason, the thing that he was this whole time the single All Star on the team, can come in his defense. Sure, CJ McCollum improved a lot in the last seasons, and he was the main helper of Dame, as he developed into a 20+ PPG player, but he doesn’t have that superstar, All Star statute in the league.
Moreover, injuries have been killing the Portland Trail Blazers late in the season. Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles in 2015, when they were on a roll, CJ McCollum also suffered some knee injuries, even in this end of the season, and lately Jusuf Nurkic’s gruesome injury. All that bad stuff have kept Portland and Damian Lillard from shining in the postseason. Furthermore, they have been eliminated by the eventual NBA Champions three times in the past years.
Since we have brought into discussion the injury factor, we can observe that Lillard didn’t miss much games since he came into the league, and he never took days off for rest, like some other stars did and continue to do. He didn’t miss a single game in his first three seasons. 9 is the number of the matches that he has most missed in a season, only once, in the 2017-18 season. This season he played 80 games, and the Portland Trail Blazers finished on the 3rd spot in the stacked West, while Lillard had an average of 25,8 PPG, 4,6 RPG and 6,9 APG while shooting 44,4% from-the-field.
Despite of his roster and all the injury problems that Portland has faced in the past years, Damian hustled every time throughout the season and he lead his team to the playoffs. The 4-time All Star said in a recent interview that he plans to stay long-term with the organization, because loyalty is more important than ring chasing from his point of view. This says a lot about his character.