Stotts: We're one of worst at defending paint
TUALATIN -- We’re only four games into the Portland Trail Blazers’ schedule but it has become unmistakably obvious that Damian Lillard has developed a extreme comfort level with his outside shooting that wasn’t there last season.
Lillard can flat out stroke the ball. That has never been in question. Last year he set a rookie record for most threes made in a season with 185 and he’s on pace to shatter some more records.
The reigning Rookie of the Year has already knocked down 16 three-pointers, the most by a Trail Blazers player through the team's first four games of any season while shooting the long ball at a 48 percent clip.
That three-point percentage is key to his new-found comfort level, having shot 36 percent a year ago. Now paired-up with multiple teammates who are capable of being playmakers and causing havoc for opposing teams, Lillard says he is merely reaping the benefits of their talent.
“I’m more comfortable getting shots off now because of who I got playing alongside me,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “Last year it was times where I had to rush shots, people were right in my face. Now I got Mo [Williams] in transition and my man starts to worry about being in help-side and what’s going on with everybody else. I’m just playing the game in a flow.
“Out of a timeouts, if one of my teammates goes off, teams may say ‘We can’t let [Nicolas] Batum get going. We got to stop Batum.’ Then we go to L.A. [LaMarcus Aldridge] who hits two fadaways. They not even thinking about me at this point. I might come down in transition and L.A. runs the floor and they all run to the paint and I’ll stop and have an easy two. I’m just playing the game and taking what the defense is giving me. It’s helping me shoot a higher percentage.”
There are shooters in this league who are great solely because they are spot-up guys. They rely on their teammates to get them wide-open opportunities. So far, Lillard is getting a little taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end. And he likes it.
Everybody is a better shooter when there’s no one within arms reach of you as you take your shot, and Lillard is no exception. It reminds me of the legendary, mythic individual workout Lillard had with the Trail Blazers before the 2012 NBA Draft.
At that time, I had gotten word that the kid literally didn’t miss a single shot when the team put him through several shooting drills. Lillard says he probably missed two or three shots the entire time. When you examine Lillard’s shooting form, you’ll notice he doesn’t use his legs much at all. It’s all in his wrist. It’s an effortless motion.
Perfect for the NBA three-point contest in New Orleans, something he wants to be a part of.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Lillard replied when asked if he’s interested in competing in the three-point contest in February. “I think I can shoot the ball very well. I think I’m one of the best shooters in the league. There are guys like Steph [Curry], Ray Allen who are better shooters than me, probably. But I can shoot the ball with anybody in the league.
He continued: “I think I would be good at it. It’s like reps. It’s timing. When you’re a jump-shooter, you loose time and get fatigued real easily. I don’t really jump. A set-shot is a easy shot for me so it will be fun to do something like that.”
He’s never one to back down from a challenge and I’ll have to say, if he’s invited, my pick would be him winning the whole thing. Local media members are allowed to observe the final 15 minutes or so of practice and usually it’s when the players are at their shooting stations.
Lillard seldom misses. It’s borderline ridiculous how good of a three-point shooter he is. This year fans will be able to witness for themselves just how good his shot is playing with an upgraded cast. And perhaps on a global platform, fans will get to witness it during All-Star Weekend.