The Damian Lillard Effect

Photo from Flickr by MikalanPHOTOgraphy

Photo from Flickr by MikalanPHOTOgraphy

This season, the Portland Trail Blazers are  vying for a playoff spot. With JJ Hickson, Nicolas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge, Wes Mathews and Damian Lillard starting, they look like a good team. Then comes the bench. Yeah, they have an awful bench. I could go in to many details about how bad this bench is, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today, I’m writing about the massive effect that rookie point guard Damian Lillard has when he’s on the floor.

First, let’s look at shooting. When Lillard’s on the bench, the Blazers shoot 42.3% from the floor. When he’s on the court, they shoot 44%. Not a big difference, really. That’s the difference between the 29th best shooting team in the league and the 21st best. However, when it comes to shooting threes, there’s a huge difference. The Blazers are a lowly 26th in the NBA in three-point percentage, sitting at 33.7%. Without Damian Lillard on the court, they shoot 25% from beyond the arc. TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT. The worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA (Minnesota) shoots 30% from downtown. Without Lillard, Portland’s 5% worse at three-pointers than any other team in the league. Howver, when Lillard’s on the floor, the Blazers shoot 35.5%, which would be tied for 14th in the NBA. Not fantastic, but right in the middle. Yes, Damian Lillard being on the court makes the Blazers 10.5% better at shooting threes. Now, it’s a wonder how that only makes the team’s shooting percentage go up 1.7% with Lillard on the floor, right? Wrong. Although Lillard does help their three-game, when he’s on the court the team is slightly worse with mid-range jumpers and are significantly worse in the paint.

When Lillard's on the floor, the Blazers get way better from three and slightly worse in the paint and on mid-range jumpers.

When Lillard’s on the floor, the Blazers get way better from three and slightly worse in the paint and on mid-range jumpers.

Because of his ability to make the team be better at shooting treys, when he’s not on the court, the Blazers have the worst effective field goal percentage (eFG%) in the league at 45.5, but when he’s on the court the Blazers have the 11th best eFG% at 49.7. In terms of true shooting percentage (TS%), when he’s not on the court, Portland is tied for last at 49.7. When Lillard’s on the court, the Blazers’ TS% skyrockets to 53.4, which would be 13th in the NBA.

Also, when Lillard’s the team actually becomes better at rebounding. Their rebound percentage goes up from 47.9 to 50.3, but that doesn’t say as much, because looking at it closer, their defensive rebounding percentage only goes up .1%. I mean, Lillard doesn’t have much to do with defensive rebounding. The telling stat is that when Lillard’s on the floor, the Blazers’ offensive rebounding percentage increases by 3.7, which is a fairly large margin.

The most impressive Damian Lillard statistic to me, however, is this: The Portland Trail Blazers have a Net Rating of -2.1, 19th in the NBA. When Damian Lillard is not on the floor, the Blazers have a Net Rating of -10.7, which alone would put them behind the Bobcats for worst in the NBA. When Damian Lillard is on the floor, the Blazers have a Net Rating of 0.1, which would make them the 16th best in the league. That shows how much Damian Lillard means to the Blazers’ on both ends of the court. When he’s not on the floor, the Blazers are one of the worst teams in basketball. When he’s on the floor, they are close if not in the playoffs.

Oh, and he’s a rookie.

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About Jameson Draper
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