Last year the Portland Trailblazers surprised the basketball world by winning 24 of their first 30 games en route to a 54-28 season and the team’s first playoff series win in more than a decade. Reigning rookie of the year Damian Lillard played a key role in the team’s success, and more will be expected of the third year point guard as the 2014-2015 season progresses. In particular, the Webster State alum will need to improve his efforts on the defensive end of the floor if the Blazers plan on advancing to the Western Conference Finals next summer.
After averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists in his first season, Lillard improved his shot and averaged nearly 21 points per contest in his second season. His defensive numbers, however, left considerable room for improvement. Lillard’s steal percentage of 1.1, defensive rating of 110, and 1.8 defensive win share are all well below average, while a simple eye test shows any moderately skilled ball handler blowing by the Portland guard with ease. Unlike most players with such poor defensive numbers, Lillard is a superstar in the making who has averaged 35.8 and 38.6 minutes per game in his first two seasons. If Portland hopes to secure its first championship since 1977, Lillard will need to improve defensively during his time on court.