Between his battling an abdominal injury, his dip in production on the court, fending off constant trade rumors, the knowledge that his Trail Blazers team is simply not good enough to win big in the NBA, it’s a little sad what’s happened to Lillard this season.
One has to respect Dame for his commitment to a franchise that has never so much as paired him with a second All-Star after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Through sheer force of will and ability, Lillard has spearheaded Portland to greater heights than their roster might suggest.
The sad part is it looks like that might be coming to an end.
However you want to slice it, the odds that Lillard will return to his previous superstar status are waning. A smaller guard on the other side of 30 being asked to carry an immense scoring load for his team, the track record of those aging gracefully isn’t kind.
Even as he starts to transition into the next phase of his career, he can still pop off for 40 points on any given night. That killer instinct has not ebbed away. Doubt him at your own peril.
NBA Power Rankings: Trae Young is still producing.
It’s been an interesting eight months for Young. From fully adopting the dark side and putting on one of the greatest displays of antagonist basketball against the Knicks to knocking out the more talented 76ers, expectations were high for Trae and the Hawks to continue their success this year.
So far, they haven’t.
It’s not so much Trae’s fault. Yes, he did have a transitional period adjusting to the new foul rules, but he has since bounced back and returned to star form. It’s more the fact that the Hawks’ defense has been putrid.
Currently 28th in the league in defensive rating, and 25th in points allowed, Atlanta’s brief tango as “Villains of the League” has taken a bit of a downturn. Still, that shouldn’t be attributed to Young. He’s been great this season, orchestrating the offense as only he can and averaging 27.6 points per game on career-best efficiency.
However, he’s past the point where we can’t count team success against him. Trae isn’t a fun rookie or a fringe All-Star, he’s a cemented star in this league. With that comes the perks of our respect, the benefit of the doubt, and higher expectations. If he wants to move into his positional top three, the wins are the difference.