Who doesn’t like to daydream about the future?
Or think about your favorite NBA team winning it all?
Now that Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard is in his prime, Blazers fans having been asking the question:
Is this the year the Blazers take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy?
Yes, fans are enjoying thinking about the immediate future.
NBA analysts for NBC Sports are equally enjoying predicting the future and how individual players will be affected as they age.
Lillard, who the Blazers are all-in on, will be 34-years-old in 2024.
NBCsports.com’s team of NBA reporters and analysts believe when 2024 comes around the Blazers will have to move one from Lillard Time.
Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk sums up the rankings like so:
The NBA team at NBCSports.com put our heads together, pulled out our crystal balls, and tried to project forward who would be the 50 best players in the NBA in five years — in the summer of 2024. We took into account a player’s age, his potential ceiling and how likely he is to reach it, injury history, and more. The team working on this included Dan Feldman, Tom Haberstroh, Rob Dauster, Tommy Beer, Steve Alexander, and Kurt Helin (and thanks to Tess Quinlan and Mia Zanzucchi for the design help).
There were plenty of disagreements (and we don’t expect you to agree with all of our list), but here it is.
So where does Lillard rank in five years?
He comes in at No. 33 on the list.
Seems pretty low, right?
Here is what the NBC Sports NBA analyst Dane Delgado had to say how Lillard’s future ranking:
“It’s been assumed that by the end of his most recent contract that Damian Lillard won’t be the player the Portland Trail Blazers need any longer. He’s already 30 years old, and the common refrain has been that point guards at or near six feet tall don’t age gracefully.
But like anything else, we must take both historical examples and understanding that we are in a new era of NBA basketball into consideration. This era is one where guys like Lillard are pioneering a 3-point shot that has stretched the limits of spacing on an NBA floor. Because of that, it’s entirely possible that Lillard ends up being more like late stage Jason Kidd then late-stage Chris Paul.
Kidd was 6-foot-4 and could play across multiple positions, but there’s a new geometry in the NBA that should aide Lillard. The dimensions of an NBA floor are being pushed to their limits as shooters get farther and farther away from the basket. As players adapt to this, passing lanes and scoring opportunities will continue to change.
With that in mind, Lillard might not be headed for a “Most Overpaid” listicle in five years the way some have assumed. Instead, Lillard could just as easily transition into a 3-point shooting, high-arc-passing veteran who annoys opponents to no end. Hell, he’s already shown he can take a step forward on defense without relying on his athleticism this postseason.
Superstar shifts are more likely to be unfortunate than successful. But Lillard is one of the most iron-willed players in the league, and he’s secure in both who he is and the cash he’s got in his pocket. If the need comes for him to find a new niche after a lost step or two, count on him to make it.”
Lillard’s ranking of 33 had him come in ahead of Chicago Bull big man Lauri Markkanen (ranked 34) who will be 27 years old in five years, while Rudy Gobert (ranked 32) and Stephen Curry (ranked 31) are just ahead of Lillard.
So, if you think Lillard’s ranking is pretty low, Curry, who is two years older than the Trail Blazers All-Star, is ranked two spots higher.
It’s always fun to think about the future, but these rankings are just future projections. Whether it’s future or current rankings Blazers fans know that Lillard isn’t concerned with such individual metrics.
He’s concerned with the success of his team – the future success of the Portland Trail Blazers.
This summer Lillard has also been concerned about his body.
Lillard celebrated his 29th birthday in early July before he held his annual kids basketball camp in Beaverton, OR.
As he gets older, Lillard has realized that it is a necessity to change up his offseason workout plan.
“Work smarter, not harder,” Lillard said at his kids camp this summer. “I always try to just go, go, go. I workout two times [a day] and then I’ll be ready to do more stuff because I always tell myself you’ve got to put your body through it, you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to do all these things, but what I’ve learned so far this summer is that I trained for like two weeks, I was doing a bunch of conditioning and I was on the court a lot and then I was in Mexico for five days, then I came to Vegas and then I went to LA to do some stuff. Then it was 10 days and I hadn’t trained at all, then last Monday I started working out again here and I felt great.”
“I was like I need to start giving myself a break more often than I do because I felt better after 10 days of nothing and hanging out with all of my cousins and stuff, I felt better. So, I think that’s the thing that I’m picking up more now. The older I get, the rest I need to give my body and I actually felt better when I did it,” Lillard added.
With Lillard gearing up for his eighth NBA season, he is making sure to “treat his body right,” which will go a long way in his future success and future rankings.
For more on NBCsports.com’s 50 best players in 5 years check out the complete list here.