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Damian Lillard Going To The Rim Makes No Damn Sense

Kevin Harlan has the best jump-stop in the NBA. The timing is generally easier; spend enough years talking through NBA games and you'll get a feel for the cadence of a pick-and-roll, or how to ride out the crowd noise after a big play. But Harlan is great because when that timing gets thrown off and he's caught mid-sentence, he can stop on a dime, cut himself off like a 2K14 sound-editing bug, and roll right into shouting something that lets you know you should be excited, because that was awesome. If you're a sucker like me and keep the game on while doing whatever else, you know in that first syllable what you're missing. I was folding laundry when Lillard crashed down on Tim Duncan last night, but just from the pitch of Harlan's whelp, I had a pretty good idea what Dame had done.

Damian Lillard going to the rim happens all at once, like the fast forward you'll get in some video games after a lag spike—he's coming, and then he's coming. You can see it better in two plays in the video below, starting around 0:50, with around nine minutes left in the fourth, Lillard smashing into poor Boris Diaw, and slashing past Aron Baynes. Only a few guys look like that—Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, the late Derrick Rose—taking that last step toward the rim, bursting off of their burst. Lillard isn't in quite the same class of oh damn athlete as those guys, but when he's driving, taking that step, it's easy to forget. If you're fast enough to trip up Kevin Harlan, you're plenty fast enough. And so you see this, and it's hard to remember that, actually, Lillard kind of sucks going to the rim.


Lillard shot 46.86 percent at the basket this year, and per Synergy Sports, he scored 0.971 points per possession going to the rim while driving left (he's almost always driving left), in just the 33rd percentile. In all, around the basket, he ranks 363rd in the league in efficiency. Which makes no damn sense. Look at him! Lillard can bounce around the paint like Nightcrawler, has range for miles to keep defenders close enough to burn, and dunks like an angry little thunder god. Theories have been tossed around—he's just too tiny, like Steph; he needs to put the ball higher off the backboard; he's trying to draw too many fouls (which aren't coming), and taking shitty shots because of it—but it doesn't actually matter why, or even if he figures it out this year. It's exciting when Damian goes to the rim, because it has every chance of being awful—it's kind of the polar opposite of those gorgeous, awful Westbrook jump-stop pull-ups—but sometimes it's this.

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