The Portland Trail Blazers have looked drastically different in their last three games, not just personnel-wise but also in on-court application. As Head Coach Chauncey Billups continues to instill his identity within the team, the question begs: How will Damian Lillard fit in once he returns?
Billups made it clear upon his hiring that he intended to play a more egalitarian method of basketball, one that was more reliant on ball and player movement. As he took the helm in the early season, it was clear that the team struggled to adapt to his preferred style of play before eventually abandoning it altogether. Many fans and pundits surmised that Lillard’s slump early in the season was due to the upheaval of the offensive system.
Now, with nearly all of Portland’s longtime veterans either traded away or sidelined, Billups has been freed to implant his motion-style offense to more willing students.
How will Damian Lillard fit in with the new-look Portland Trail Blazers
It’s no secret that Dame works best with the ball in his hands. In 2020-2021, he came by over 72 percent of his buckets through his own accord per NBA.com.
As one of the greatest offensive engines in the history of the league, it also makes sense to assume that the team is best off with the ball in Lillard’s hands.
This is true to an extent — especially in the closing minutes of a tightly contested game when Dame goes from a superstar talent to a force in a league of his own.
But playing in Billups’s style, with players and the ball bouncing all around the court, provides a specific set of merits that Lillard hasn’t enjoyed thus far in his career: keeping the defense honest, allowing all players to catch a rhythm and establish themselves, relieves Dame of the responsibility of shouldering the entire offensive workload, and allows him opportunities to catch a breath without heading to the bench.
Billups and the new Portland Trail Blazers are proving the upside of the coach’s offensive philosophy, having racked up three wins in a row against teams that were supposed to beat them. In each victory, the Blazers had at least 26 assists and four players reach double-digits in scoring.
Hopefully, Lillard is learning first-hand how this approach will not only benefit the team overall but can also help him.
It won’t be surprising to see both Dame and the team struggle to acclimate once he returns, but if they’re willing to stick to their guns, the payoff could be major. And of course, when the clock hits Dame Time, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to just go to work.