January 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) celebrates after making a three-point basket against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Trail Blazers 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard and John Wall

Jan 24, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall leaves the court following the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 101-95. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 

Despite coexisting in the NBA for a season and a half, Damian Lillard and John Wall have only faced each other one time. Remember the stress injury Wall dealt with in his left knee to begin 2012-2013? He didn’t play until January 12th. Just over a week later he visited Portland and was thoroughly outplayed by a rookie Lillard. Can you blame him? It’s not exactly easy to shake rust off after missing months of action. Wall scored 6 points to Lillard’s 18, but that really doesn’t say anything.

Tonight, Lillard and Wall will meet in mutually peak form for the first time and I couldn’t be more excited. In analyst chatter, Damian Lillard has been juxtaposed with damn near every active point guard since entering the league last year: Curry, Irving, Rubio, Dragic, Jennings, Holiday, Conley, etc. Yet John Wall remains one of the most active points of interest. Seeing them go head-to-head less than a week removed from being named to their first NBA All-Star teams, respectively, will be a treat.

 

2013-2014 Per Game Stats

Damian Lillard: 20.6 points, 5.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals

John Wall: 19.8 points, 8.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals

 

Though they boast similar scoring figures, they butter their bread differently. Lillard scores from the outside with an affinity for pulling up in transition, where Wall can be classified as more of a slasher with some mid-range. Interestingly enough, they’re grinding toward an unlikely equilibrium. This season Lillard has put a special focus on driving with aggression, while Wall is shooting four times as many threes per game as he did last year (at a higher success rate). They’ll never be the same player, but the question of dominance will remain until one pulls ahead.

Right now, Wall has the edge. I haven’t yet decided if this is because he is more of a leader or because he has to be more of a leader. The Washington Wizards aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with talent like the Trail Blazers (though that may be a generous reading on Portland’s part). John Wall’s closest partner in crime is sophomore injury connoisseur Bradley Beal, and Damian Lillard’s is the NBA’s top power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Wall might be able to do a little more of everything because he is called upon to do so.

Of course, the fact that he is able to step up speaks volumes to his talent. The holes in Wall’s game are shrinking more rapidly than the once gaping maw that was Lillard’s defense. Wall’s additional two years in the league can help account for this (career implications favor Lillard), but he is still stronger in a vacuum. Not by much though, and Damian Lillard loves to explode against highly touted competition (poor Kyrie). Tonight’s game will show us how well they match up with each other, as well as provide a more accurate reading on who really has the upper hand.

 

 

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Tags: Damian Lillard John Wall NBA All-star Portland Trail Blazers

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