Effective Shooters is a recurring series detailing efficient shooters in the NBA and where they are most effective. Up first is Damian Lillard.
Rarely does a second-year player have the killer instinct that Portland point guard Damian Lillard possesses. In 24 months, Lillard has gone from unrecognizability at Webber State to the 2013 Rookie of the Year, 2014 All-Star selection, and a shoe deal with Adidas worth well over $100 million. He easily sunk the biggest shot of the year last season for the Trail Blazers, a shot that catapulted them into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Lillard is inching closer each season to being the best point guard in the league. He still has a ways to go regarding facilitation (only averages 5.8 assists per 36 minutes), but his numbers are noteworthy, and they’re steadily improving. He’s a larger-than-life star whose clutch gene in late-game situations saved Portland time and time again.
Although his overall field goal percentage dipped by .05 percent from 2012-13 to 2013-14, he hoisted nearly 100 more shots, averaged the tenth most touches per game during the regular season (84), and ranked No. 4 in the league in pull up points per game in last year’s playoffs. His effective field goal percentage stayed above 50 percent and his true shooting percentage rose to 57 percent.
The Oakland native operates best when he has a screener at the top of the key, allowing him to use his quickness and a two-dribble move to the left or the right to hoist his shot.
Just 7 percent of his career 3-point attempts have come from the corner, but his percentage on those attempts jumped from 35 to 44 percent a season ago, and his overall 3-point percentage skyrocketed. With head coach Terry Stotts running a majority of the offense around high pick-and-roll sets with a guard and Aldridge or Lopez, Lillard rarely has the opportunity to sidle behind the arc in the corner. When he does, though, he’s proven to be the most effective on the team from the corner for players who attempted more than 80 3-pointers last season. From the left corner he’s remarkably efficient, shooting 69 percent a season ago. The right corner is colder, where he shoots just 31 percent.
From 16+ feet from the basket on 2-point attempts, Lillard posted a career best 44.2 percent shooting percentage. As mentioned earlier, highball screens are Agent Zero’s version of a kid in candy store. They allow him to either move side-to-side or split the defender, take a few dribbles in, and rise up.
He has gotten better at getting to the rim, but his innate qualities better suite a spot up game rather than slashing like Chicago’s Derrick Rose. From the left corner and atop the key, Damian Lillard is as remarkable a shooter as the NBA has, and we can only expect him to improve again next season.