As the Blazers continue to slide back down to mediocrity (9-8 in their last 17 games), a team that was supposed to have two all-stars now seems to be producing only one.
Damian Lillard has certainly had a good, if not great year, but let’s put things in perspective;
He’s only shown a marginal improvement compared to his rookie year. His lack of finishing inside, which has plagued him all season, is most worrisome, as his biggest jump has actually been his three-point shooting (but has been free-falling lately). Assists are down, and so is his usage rate, but I’d like to think that the final pass is going through Nicholas Batum much more as he has become the playmaker. And lately, when coaches are in the process of picking out the reserves, Lillard just hasn’t played well.
Lillard’s Lack of Consistency
Or rather, recently he’s been consistently bad. Lillard’s shooting accuracy has been plummeted lately. In the last 10 games (in which the Blazers are 6-4), Lillard has shot 39% from the field and only 27% from three. He’s averaged 17.3 PPG and 5.3 APG in this period, a time in which the schedule has gotten more difficult. Lillard hasn't been able to adjust his game when the three is taken away. His inside the arc scoring has increased as has its efficiency, but it hasn't been enough to offset the missed threes. It’s a huge slump and it’s rearing its head at the wrong time for all-star consideration.
Should Winning be taken into Consideration?
Many analysts say that winning teams should be well represented at the All-Star game. The Blazers still have a good overall record, but the magic is gone. They are struggling to win games now that the league has adjusted to them and they’ve been taken out of their game. Starting 24-5 is tremendous, no doubt, but it was early, they’ve had no injuries and the league has caught up to them, do the Blazers deserve two all-stars because of their early season success? LaMarcus Aldridge has put up career numbers and he’s already been an All-Star on worse teams with lower numbers, but he’s arguably the best power forward in the game this year. The same can’t be said about Lillard. He’s good, he can get better, but he’s not there yet.
It’s actually been Wesley Matthews who has put up a career year next to Aldridge, averaging a career high in points and shooting at a very high rate. Could it possibly be his improvement that has pushed the Blazers to where they are now, as opposed to Lillard? Probably not, but he certainly deserves some of the credit for their success, as do the rest of the starters putting up careers years in Batum and Robin Lopez. I feel that an all-star berth for Lillard, who isn’t having a career year, just wouldn’t be fair.
If he doesn’t make the All-Star team, I expect Lillard to prove that he deserved to be by taking it out on the rest of the league and getting the Blazers a top three seed in the playoffs. He is still young, and will have future opportunities to make the team, just not yet.
statistics via basketball-reference.com