Lillard Secure With His Status As A 'Great Shooter' Despite Omission

by Casey Holdahl
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After 12 seconds had elapsed in Portland’s 118-111 victory versus the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at the Moda Center, Damian Lillard attempted and made the first shot of the game, a three-pointer from 26 feet. Lillard would net three more thriples on 50 percent shooting before the game was over, bringing his total to 100 made three-pointers for the season.

It was somewhat coincidental that Lillard got to that mark on the same day that ESPN posted a graphic on noting that Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen had made the first 100 three-pointers of his career in just 41 games, making him the fastest player to get to the century mark in his career. The player who held the record before? That would be Lillard, who took just 44 games to make 100 threes during his rookie season.

But despite being the former record-holder, Lillard wasn’t shown alongside Stephen Curry, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan, which prompted a single emoji response from the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State.

While it’s true that Lillard, a career 37 percent shooter from three, hasn’t been as accurate in his career as Curry (44 percent), he’s close to players such as Allen (40 percent), Miller (40 percent) and Nowitzki (38 percent) while shooting better from deep than Jordan (33 percent). So why no Lillard, especially since it was his record being broken? Lillard said that it comes down to respect, and in terms of his ability to shoot from distance, he doesn’t think he gets much of it, despite the fact that he’s been one of the most prolific three-point shooters since entering the league five seasons ago.

“Obviously I don’t think I’m Michael Jordan, but he wasn’t known for being a shooter,” said Lillard. “He’s known for his greatness but not for what he did behind the arc, so I think that cancels out anybody saying ‘These are the best shooters ever.’”

“But the numbers prove it. You look at the record that they was talking about, I was the previous record holder, so it only makes sense that I would be there if you’re talking about that record. Single season threes for a rookie, I hold that record. Most threes in the first two, three seasons, I hold that record. First six years with 100 threes a season. There’s a lot of stuff. I’m a shooter. I take tough ones because that’s just the way it comes for me, so the percentages might not say that, but I’m a great shooter.”

Lillard already owns the Trail Blazers franchise mark for career three-pointers with 1,142, which also ranks 70th in NBA history and 25th among active players, so assuming good health, there’s reason to believe he’ll end his career among the all-time leaders in three-point shooting. That’s not to say he’s where he wants to be in terms of his accuracy — he’s shooting 35 percent from three in this season, which would be the second-worst mark of his career — but he at least deserves to be mentioned as one of the most willing and able shooters in the NBA, especially when referencing a record that he previously owned.

“I think I can shoot a lot better than I have,” said Lillard. “I take a lot of hard threes just because I feel like I don’t get the spot up opportunities. Teams don’t allow me to, so I’ve got to get them how I can and a lot of the times that’s off the dribble. So I don’t think my percentage is a reflection of the shooter that I am, but I think I’ve had spurts where I’ve shot the three well. “