Portland Trail Blazers: Comparing Damian Lillard to NBA's Elite PGs at 22

Alex TamCorrespondent IIINovember 5, 2012

Portland Trail Blazers: Comparing Damian Lillard to NBA's Elite PGs at 22

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    Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard has received a ton of publicity as of late for his place in NBA history just three games into his career.

    Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Lillard is already the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award (via Jason Quick of The Oregonian).

    Lillard, an Oakland, Calif., native, became the second player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and dish at least seven assists in the first three games of their career, joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian).

    Lillard is another breed of scoring point guards who have the ability to pass the ball and rebound. But how does he stack up against the NBA's elite point guards in the history of the game at the age of 22?

    Let's compare Lillard to other elite scoring point guards in their first three games of their NBA seasons at 22 years old.

    For this, we'll include the following players: Isiah Thomas, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Penny Hardaway, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.

    Stats provided by basketball-reference.com

Scoring

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    Scoring average (first three games)

    1. Derrick Rose 27.6
    2. Russell Westbrook 22.3
    3. Damian Lillard 21.3
    4. Chris Paul 18.7
    5. Isiah Thomas 18.0
    6. Tony Parker 15.7
    7. Kevin Johnson 13.3
    8. Deron Williams 12.6
    9. Gary Payton 10.6
    10. Penny Hardaway 9.3

     

    Lillard ranks third in this elite group of point guards in scoring average through their first three games at age 22.

    Most in this list were also not rookies at age 22, and Lillard has gone up against the likes of Steve Nash, Westbrook and Jeremy Lin in his first three games.

    Lillard ranks 17th in the NBA right now in scoring and is tied with Westbrook at 21.3 per game. His ability to score from the outside, drive the lane and hit the midrange jumper makes him a huge scoring threat right now.

Assists

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    Assists average (first three games)

    1. Kevin Johnson 13.0
    2. Isiah Thomas 11.1
    3. Chris Paul 9.3
    4. Damian Lillard 9.0
    5. Derrick Rose 8.6
    6. Russell Westbrook 7.3
    7. Gary Payton 7.3
    8. Deron Williams 6.7
    9. Penny Hardaway 5.3
    10. Tony Parker 5.3

     

    Franchise players not only score the ball, but they make their teammates better.

    Lillard is averaging nearly double-digits, including an 11-assist outing against the Los Angeles Lakers in the season opener. He is already tied for fifth in the league in assists per game with Parker, Williams and Jrue Holiday.

    The number is more impressive as the Blazers do not have many scoring threats outside their starting five. With a bench lacking in depth and talent, Lillard is still able to get players involved and set them up for easy scoring opportunities.

Rebounding

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    Rebounding average (first three games)

    1. Russell Westbrook 6.7
    2. Chris Paul 6.3
    3. Derrick Rose 5.0
    4. Gary Payton 4.7
    5. Penny Hardaway 4.3
    6. Damian Lillard 4.0
    7. Isiah Thomas 4.0
    8. Tony Parker 4.0
    9. Kevin Johnson 3.7
    10. Deron Williams 2.7

     

    Lillard earned his season-high in rebounds on Saturday against Houston with six.

    His size (6'3") and athletic ability make him a good candidate to average a solid number of rebounds at point guard.

    Lillard ranks sixth in this list and is tied for 10th in the league at his position (via ESPN.com). A point guard who is willing to get into the lane, rebound and push the break is an asset. With the NBA going more toward a point guard-dominated league, unlike the center-dominated leagues of the past, having a versatile point is a huge advantage.

Player Efficiency Rating

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    PER ratings

    1. Chris Paul 28.3
    2. Russell Westbrook 23.6
    3. Derrick Rose 23.5
    4. Damian Lillard 21.8
    5. Isiah Thomas 20.9
    6. Kevin Johnson 20.5
    7. Tony Parker 18.0
    8. Penny Hardaway 17.4
    9. Deron Williams 17.1
    10. Gary Payton 13.2

     

    Lillard ranks fourth on this list with an impressive 21.8 PER.

    The middle-of-the-road NBA player should average a 15.0 PER, so Lillard has certainly launched into discussion as an above-average player albeit with a small sample size. It's not only his efficiency that has impressed but his ability to make clutch plays in leading the Blazers to a 2-1 record.

    To note, the other nine players' PERs are for their entire season at 22 years old rather than their first three games.

Conclusion

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    While we have to look at this within perspective—Lillard has played just three NBA games in his career—this further proves that what he is doing so far is not common at this stage of his career at the point-guard position.

    Lillard leads all NBA rookies in points by nearly seven per game over Anthony Davis (14.5), assists by nearly six per game over Austin Rivers (3.3) and minutes by nearly nine per game over Rivers (28.9).

    Can he keep up this pace?

    Time will tell, but his maturity after playing three years at Weber State has certainly helped his development.

    With teams willing to gamble more on 19 to 20-year-olds, Lillard is proving that staying in college for more than two years is not a knock against you—instead, it can better prepare you for the NBA.