Most underrated player

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

Most underrated player
August 26
13:41 2020

Damian Lillard has been tearing up the NBA since its return in the bubble. Lillard has stepped up his game to a level that allowed the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers to upset the top seeded Los Angeles Lakers in game 1 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs 100-93. Lillard’s play has led me to believe that he is playing the best basketball on the planet right now.

While playing 43 minutes, Lillard lit up the Lakers for 34 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. This should not have been a surprise for anyone that has been watching Lillard play since the league returned. In nine games inside the bubble, Lillard scored at least 30 points in six of the nine games. He also dropped 40 or more in four of those games with a high of 61 coming against the Dallas Mavericks on August 11. 

With Lillard’s hot hand and the stellar play of his supporting cast, the Blazers have a realistic chance of defeating the top-seeded Lakers. The shooting woes that the Lakers are suffering from are not helping matters either. If LeBron and AD don’t start taking over the games late, Lillard could pull one of the greatest upsets in playoff history.

“We also know it’s only going to get harder from here,” said Lillard in a post-game interview.  “They are a great team and the number one seed in the west for a reason. So, it’s going to get harder, but I am not concerned about our mentality going forward, because I know my team.”

I don’t think many people expected Lillard to be this good when he was drafted 6th overall out of Weber State by the Trail Blazers in the 2012 NBA Draft. Lillard has progressively gotten better and better every season of his career.  This year he seems to have put it all together and is showcasing his full repertoire.

Since his debut season in the league, Lillard has been a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of player. The five-time All-Star has developed his game to the point where many can argue that outside of Steph Curry, he may be the best shooter on the planet. No disrespect to the likes of Klay Thompson or Devin Booker and others.

Lillard began his career by playing all 82 games his first three years in the league. He is rarely hurt or injured, so he has not played less than 73 games in his career, outside of this year’s shortened season. That type of consistency is abnormal in today’s game, with star players taking scheduled days off and calling it load management. This is why Dame D.O.L.L.A has begun to separate himself as a different type of superstar that is more reminiscent of the 1980s than today.

For me, the biggest reason that Lillard does not receive the acclaim I feel he deserves is because he plays in a small market team in Portland. If Lillard were putting up these kinds of numbers and highlights for the New York Knicks or Boston Celtics, he would be more of a household name.

I applaud Lillard for choosing to stay with Portland when he had multiple opportunities to leave in the past. In 2015 and 2019, Lillard decided to re-sign with the Blazers instead of exploring other destinations and possibly forming a super team with other stars in the league.

On multiple occasions, Lillard has spoken out about why he refuses to join a super team. After his 61-point explosion against the Mavs in the bubble, Lillard said, “The grass ain’t always greener. For me, I feel like we can build something and get it done in Portland. I really believe that. I don’t just say it to say it.”

This type of mentality has to be commended. This seems to be the opposite of how many superstars in the NBA approach their careers nowadays, because team loyalty is no longer a phrase that many players deem important anymore.

I am hoping the Blazers can pull off the impossible and find a way to beat the Lakers and bring another championship to Portland. I am not a fan of the team, but I am a fan of Lillard and how he carries himself and goes about his business. I hope America gets the opportunity to see how good Lillard is and he finally get the rightful credit he deserves.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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