5 Reasons Why Damian Lillard is on the Verge of Being Elite

Five Reasons Why Damian Lillard will be an Elite Player

Damian Lillard Verge Elite Portland Trail Blazers Chris Paul Blake Griffin
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Although he won't be representing his country in the FIBA World Cup, Damian Lillard's dismissal from USA Basketball shouldn't be taken as a judgment on his ability as a player. Lillard remains at or near the level of the elite players in the NBA and here are five reasons why.

5. Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Elite
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5. Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Elite
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

During last year's playoffs, Blazers coach Terry Stotts told Jim Rome that Lillard "wants to be great and he wants to win." The hard-working coach is exactly the kind of leader Lillard needs to help guide him to that greatness. Lillard has said that he has a great relationship with Stotts, who the Blazers have locked up through 2016-17.

4. A Star Running Mate in LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers PDX
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

4. A Star Running Mate in LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers PDX
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As Jordan had Pippen, Magic had Kareem and Worthy & LeBron had D-Wade and Bosh, so too does Lillard have LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge became a MVP candidate last season (finishing 10th in the voting) and will continue to help shoulder the burden of leading the Trail Blazers. The star power forward will provide Lillard and excellent wingman to play off of for years to come.

3. Despite Success, Lillard Can Still Improve

Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard Elite Driving
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3. Despite Success, Lillard Can Still Improve

Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard Elite Driving
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

His historic statistical output aside (more on that later), there are still areas of Lillard's game that need fine-tuning, namely his ability to drive the basketball and finish at the rim. His size has been a major factor in prohibiting him from doing so at an elite level. If he can improve upon this, something he has the work ethic and determination to do, it's another major leap his overall game can take.

2. Shooting from Distance and in the Clutch

Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Game Winner Versus Houston Rockets
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

2. Shooting from Distance and in the Clutch

Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Game Winner Versus Houston Rockets
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Since entering the league, Lillard has been attempting over six three pointers per game. Last year, he connected on nearly 40-percent of those shots. In a league that increasingly values analytics and the three-point shot, this will continue to pay dividends for Lillard. He's also shown a growing propensity to hit big shots in the clutch, none bigger than his game winner against the Rockets in this past season's Playoffs.

1. His Numbers Following his First 2 Seasons Say He's Already There

LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Allen Iverson Tiny Archibald Oscar Robertson
NBAE/Getty Images

1. His Numbers Following his First 2 Seasons Say He's Already There

LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Allen Iverson Tiny Archibald Oscar Robertson
NBAE/Getty Images

Perhaps lost in the debate about whether or not he's elite or where he ranks among current point guards is the fact that his career has begun in historic fashion. Only five players have finished their first two campaigns with at least 3250 points and 980 assists. Those five are Tiny Archibald, Oscar Robertson, Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Damian Lillard. These are all-time greats. This trajectory is the very definition of elite. End of story.

Ryan Aston covers the Utah Jazz for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @MrMaryKateOlsen or add him to your network on Google.

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