For years, Damian Lillard has been praised for his prolific three-point shooting, his fantastic finishes, and his leadership both on and off the court.
The Trail Blazers All-Star has earned his seat at the table as one of the league’s elite point guards, and rightfully so.
But is he the best?
Everyone has their own opinions on the “best PG in the league” debate, including Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman of ESPN’s First Take. On this week’s episode, the two players debated whether or not the five-time NBA All-Star and NBA Bubble MVP is the top point guard in the league.
“Yes he is,” Kellerman said. “As great as Steph Curry has been, Damian Lillard is two years younger and has taken the next step. You know Steph Curry showed the way, but Damian Lillard saw that and he’s shooting from a million miles away and hitting, and completely unstoppable, offensively...
“And now he has certain pieces on the team, when you examine these two guys teams, in fact, Damian Lillard’s life is going to be a little easier on the Blazers… all that adds up to Damian Lillard, I think, in this coming season, will be the best true point guard in the NBA.”
After a phenomenal campaign last season, Lillard came in one spot up above Curry at No. 7 on ESPN’s list of the best NBA players heading in the 2020-21 season.
In late January into February, Lillard, who was named to the 2019 All-NBA Second Team, put together an extraordinary stretch averaging 48.8 points and 8.2 3-pointers per game on 57 percent shooting as Portland knocked off four playoff teams.
As the Trail Blazers battled for the eighth seed inside the NBA bubble, Lillard wouldn’t let his team go down without a fight. He won Player of the Seeding Games after dropping 37.6. points and 9.6 assists to clinch a spot in the postseason.
While Stephen A. Smith didn’t completely disagree with Kellerman, he made it clear he was siding with his fellow Steph in this debate.
“You’re wrong, but I respect where you’re coming from,” Stephen A. Smith said. “Lillard is a player, he’s a winner, he’s Mr. Clutch, he’s a leader, and he’s an incredible individual and great role model as far I’m saying...
Smith went on to compare the three-point shooting of the two, star point guards and said that while Lillard shot 40.1 percent from deep last season, Curry has done it every year since he entered the league.
“Steph Curry did it every year for the first 10 years in his career,” Stephen A. Smith argued. “He has never shot less than 42 percent from three-point range in his career with the exception of the 20 games he played after he came off of injury last year. Yeah, that’s it. For the first 10 years of his career, he did what Damian Lillard just did for the first time in his career.”
But that’s not the only factor that led to Stephen A. Smith’s to choose Curry over long-range assassin Lillard in the point guard debate.
“His movement without the basketball is unreal,” Stephen A. Smith said. “That element right there makes him so profoundly lethal. That’s the difference between him and Damian Lillard. Damian Lillard don’t move like that without the ball the way Steph does.”
It’s hard to put too much weight into immeasurables like these. There is no way we could measure Lillard’s insane level of focus, his loyalty to the city of Portland, or his determination to win a championship.
Curry and Lillard have been pitted against one another for far too long in these silly debates. Can’t we just accept the fact that both players are legends in their own rights, and move on? Besides, they’re both headed to the Hall of Fame when they hang up their sneakers for good anyways.
At least that’s something we can all agree on, Stephen A. Smith.
“I think Damian Lillard is one of the great, great point guards and one of the great, great scoring point guards the game has ever seen,” Smith said.