Feb 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Western Conference guard James Harden (13) of the Houston Rockets talks with guard Tony Parker (9) of the San Antonio Spurs in the first quarter of the 2013 NBA all star game at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard Shooting Slump Hurts All-Star Chances

Jan 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) attempts a free throw during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

 

Fact: Damian Lillard has made the third most three-pointers of any NBA player this season (134), behind only Stephen Curry (139) and Klay Thompson (136).

Fact: Damian Lillard has been the most efficient three-point shooter for the Trail Blazers this season (41.9 percent), ahead of Wesley Matthews (41.7 percent).

Fact: Damian Lillard has made only three of his last 20 attempts from behind the arc (15.0 percent) in the Trail Blazers last four games, which they split 2-2.

Fact: Bears eat beets.

Okay, well not really (I think), but those first three are all true. How can that be? It seems so strange to me that not only could this occur, but that it could go by and large unnoticed. Sure, Lillard has the occasional off-night; an influx of panicked text messages from some of my favorite people alert me of this with every Lillard cold-streak. However; this one has seemed extended.

In these four games of misfortune, Lillard, who averages more than 20 points per game, has been held to 16 or fewer in each contest. That marks the longest span of games this season in which he hasn’t at least matched his present average. Perhaps the greater disappointment is that this quiet stretch of scoring paucity has lasted through the eve of All-Star reserve selections.

The All-Star reserves are chosen by the coaches, and not the fans. This way, at least a few players get to play based on performance over celebrity. The reserve ballots were due at 9:00 a.m. this morning. Though we will not know if Damian Lillard made the cut until the 4:00 p.m. announcement this Thursday on TNT, there is good reason to be concerned for the outcome.

Many other players in the West are deserving of a place on the team. The coaches have selected two guards, three forwards, and two wildcards of either position. Although the Trail Blazers have performed well on the whole, Damian Lillard’s recent slump has been weighed against the likes of James Harden, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul (who is scheduled to return before the All-Star break).

Since there are only two Western Conference guard positions to be filled, Lillard’s best shot may be as a wild card, but throwing forwards into the mix only stiffens the competition (Howard, Cousins, Nowitzki, Davis, etc). Without sugar coating, the last impression Lillard made was weaker than most. It’s fun to say that he’s still an above-average player when he’s playing poorly, but players that are above above-average players are so because of their consistency.

Yet bad performances do not erase good performances (nor do the good the bad). Damian Lillard has had more than his share of All-Star level games. There is a balance of peaks and valleys to consider and, unfortunately, his timing has not been great. Heck, the reserves couldn’t even be voted on until the starters were decided last Thursday, which means that he began to falter just before reserve decisions were being made. Lillard has arrived at the point where his overall résumé must be judged favorably in order for him to become an NBA All-Star in 2014.

 

 

Tags: Damian Lillard NBA All-star Portland Trail Blazers

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