When the names of the hardest players to guard in the NBA come up, it’s usually James Harden who gets mentioned because of his ability to initiate contact or drain a stepback three. Kevin Durant came up pre-injury. Sometimes Giannis Antetokounmpo gets mentioned, as does LeBron James.
Patrick Beverley was asked that on The J.J, Redick Podcast and went with Damian Lillard. Then Beverley backed up his choice.
“I say Dame. I give it to him. Dame is one of the reasons why I went into the weight room. I told my guys, ‘Hey, I gotta get faster laterally. I don’t feel like I’m fast. I can’t keep up with the speed right now. I don’t know if I need to lose weight. I don’t know if I need to get stronger. I don’t know if I need to hire a new f* team. But I need to get f** faster…
“He’s in a system where they allow him to be exactly who he is in order for them to win at a high level. Those half-court shots are like, for me that’s layups and corner shots, half-court shots for him, though. The dynamic is very different when you’re going out there preparing for a player like that. Way different.”
What makes Lillard so hard to defend is he can score so many ways. He has incredible handles and can get to the rim and finish, but is also shooting 40.1% on pull-up threes. Not just threes, but deep threes — he’s hit 146 threes and shot 39.2% from 25-29 feet this season.
It’s Lillard (and the return of Jusuf Nurkic) that make the Trail Blazers a threat in the bubble to force a playoff with Memphis and maybe even push into the playoffs. The Lakers would prefer to avoid Lillard in the first round, he and Portland ould be a tough out.