Where will Damian Lillard end up ranking on the NBA’s all-time scoring list?


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If you look up “certified bucket” in the dictionary, a picture of Damian Lillard will pop up. After scoring the most efficient 60-point game in the history of the NBA, it’s curious to think about how Lillard will go down in history as an NBA scorer. At the time of this publication, LeBron James is merely a few games away from breaking the once-thought-to-be untouchable record for scoring the most points in the regular season in the history of the NBA. Currently, Lillard ranks 69th all-time, recently surpassing former Blazer Zach Randolph during his 60-point outburst. With Lillard signing a two-year supermax extension, it’s clear that he has yet to make early plans for retirement. If he keeps on pace with his career scoring average over the next few years, where could Lillard end up ranking amongst all-time NBA scorers?

Currently 69th All-Time

When Lillard hit 45 in his 60-point game against the Utah Jazz on January 25th, 2022, Lillard passed Randolph on the all-time scoring list. This was after recently passing other notable legends and proficient scorers like Rick Barry, Tracy McGrady, and Dr. J. At the time of tthis publication, Lillard has 18,666 points, and he will need 120 points more to pass former NBA MVP, Bob McAdoo. To crack the top 50, he will need to surpass NBA legends like Isiah Thomas, Scottie Pippen, Jamal Crawford, Tony Parker, Dwight Howard, Bernard King, and John Stockton. Lillard is 1000+ points away from that achievement.

According to basketball-reference, Lillard is averaging 24.9 points for his career. He’s currently averaging 30.1 points per game in the 2022-23 season. There are 33 games left in the season. If he averaged even 29 points over the last 33 games of the season (assuming he’s healthy) he would hit 957 points on the season. That would be excluding any playoff appearance points.

Sustaining above 28+ points per game is a tough task for any player, even if they have aspirations to become the scoring champion of the NBA for a season. Over the last 10 years, each scoring champion has scored over 28 points per game. It’s unlikely that Lillard will be the scoring champion this season and in future seasons, not because of his own lack of scoring but simply because other superstars on other teams are tasked with more of a scoring load; however, Lillard can still average a healthy amount of points as the main scoring option on his own team.

Lillard has been healthy most of his career, not missing more than nine games in his first seven seasons. In 2019-20, he appeared in 66 games and the next season appeared in 67. He had his first injury-riddled season in 2021-22, where he only suited up 29 times for his team. Lillard has missed 12 total games in the 2022-23 season, so it’s unclear how healthy he will be moving forward, and if a losing slide continues, if he will be shut down for the rest of the year.

Assuming he suits up for at least 65 games for the next two seasons and averages his career average in points at 24, he could rack up 3,120 points. That would put Lillard in the ballpark of 22,700 points. Reaching that level would put Lillard above his Blazer counterpart, Clyde Drexler, who sits at 34th all-time with 22,195 points. Lillard already broke Drexler’s scoring record with the Blazers and has spoken about how important that was to him. It would not be surprising to see him hold up Drexler as a target yet again when it comes to career scoring totals.

Lillard’s Health

As mentioned, Lillard’s health is a growing concern. A tough abdominal injury kept him out of action for most of the season in 2021-22. In the current season, Lillard’s ankle and wrist have been bothering him, both vital body parts to his body of work as an NBA scorer. When healthy he has scored in bunches and has looked healthy. However, his injuries could easily turn for the worst and we could miss out on more scoring displays.

As he gets older and has a ton of weight on his shoulders to carry a mediocre Blazers offense, he is tasked with scoring the ball to win basketball games. Because of this, fatigue will set in sooner rather than later since he doesn’t have as much help scoring. He has his best-supporting cast of the last few years with Simons taking on a prominent role and Jerami Grant providing front-court scoring. Apologies to CJ McCollum; while his scoring helped, it wasn’t enough to bring the Blazers to the promised land.

The projections above project Lillard being relatively healthy for two full seasons without a severe drop-off in his production. This number could easily go up, however, with Lillard possible having the durability that he exhibited early on in his career, or could even go down, with Lillard showing signs of declining that come along with advancing age and the increased physical toll from all his minutes played in such a prominent role.

Also, this is assuming he averages a little less than his career average. He could easily bring that average up, and even without scoring his career average, this is only for the next two seasons. Imagine Lillard working as more of a spot-up shooter in his waning years with Simons and Shaedon Sharpe manning the Blazer’s backcourt.

Speculating on Lillard’s health and the state of the Blazers moving forward is fun, but what will be even more enjoyable is watching how Lillard performs on the court, authors signature moments, raises his level of play in the clutch, exhibits insane prowess shooting from long range, and continues to drop 30+ point scoring masterpieces on top-tier NBA defenses designed to stop him.