Damian Lillard and John Wall and What the Numbers Say

John Wall and Damian Lillard are the best point guards under the age of 26. Both are unique athletes, and took the league by storm as soon as they were drafted. This season, Wall and Lillard are carrying their teams, and are having the best seasons of their careers. Most front offices throughout the NBA would be thrilled to have either one of these stars as their floor general, but who is the better point guard? The numbers tell the story.

Lillard came into the league as primarily a scorer, while Wall proved his value mostly as a distributor. Each point guard has developed an all-around game since their rookie seasons, but the original trend remains true. One scores more, one dishes more.

2015-16 Averages Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Steals Turnovers FG% 3P%
John Wall 36.0 19.8 9.8 4.6 2.0 4.1 42.6 34.6%
Damian Lillard 36.0 25.0 7.3 4.3 1.1 3.3 42.6 37.4%

When looking at the offensive statistics of Wall and Lillard compared to the rest of the NBA, both are impressive. Among PGs, Wall ranks 7th in points and 3rd in assists; Lillard is 2nd in points and 6th in assists. Lillard beats out Wall in offensive real plus-minus, ranked 5th among PGs, while Wall is ranked 9th.

What does that mean in real time?

Damian Lillard scored a season high 51 points against the NBA’s best Steph Curry. The Warriors were throttled by Rip City. Wall’s season high was 41 points, also against Curry and the Warriors, but the Wizards lost. Lillard’s high productivity leads his team to dominance while Wall’s huge game had a personal impact but was not team consequential.

Lighting up Curry Points FG% 3-Point% W/L
JohnWall, February 3rd 41 68.0% 100% Lost by 13
Damian Lillard, February 19th 51 64.3% 75.0% Won by 32

However, Wall takes the crown on the defensive end. The Kentucky product’s 2.0 steals per game ranks 6th in the NBA, while Lillard’s 1.1 steals is tied for 69th.

Wall also adds 0.8 blocks per game, which is 3rd for all PGs. Wall’s defensive real plus-minus ranks 11th among PGs, while Lillard ranks 72nd.

Wall does not dominate the advanced stats, however, as Lillard has a higher player efficiency rating.

Point Guard Efficiency Matters? PER Team W-L Record
Steph Curry 32.21 (1st) 50-5
Damian Lillard 22.88 (5th) 29-27
Kyrie Irving 21.11 (7th) 40-15
John Wall 20.16 (12th) 25-29

The ball is in the hands of Lillard and Wall a lot, as it should be, they are their teams best players. Both guards have extremely high usage rates. Lillard ranks 4th in the NBA, with a usage rate higher than LeBron James. Wall ranks 10th, which is higher than Paul George and Kevin Durant.

These high usage rates have led to career-highs in field goal attempts, three-point attempts, and turnovers for both players. In fact, Lillard ranks 2nd out of all players in both field goal attempts (19.9) and three-point attempts (8.2).

On paper, both Wall and Lillard have substandard field goal percentages (42.6%). They miss a lot of shots and can be extraordinary volume shooters because of their heavy offensive workload. Both point guards play with a skilled shooting guard and have the option to run the play for themselves or dish it to C.J. McCollum or Bradley Beal.

One of the reasons the Wizards have the record they have, meaning not in the playoffs, is because Wall averages the second most turnovers per game (4.3), only behind James Harden. Lillard averages 3.3 turnovers.

So who is better? Who is the best face of the franchise? Who has the opportunity to lead his team into the playoffs for a sustained run?

For this season, Lillard has the Blazers better positioned than Wall has the Wizards. Lillard is the better offensive player and Wall the better defensive player but defense doesn’t matter if individual defense has no impact. Wall’s defense, while superior for his position, can’t keep the Wizards from having one of the league’s worst defenses, even as Wall’s numbers when he is on the floor makes the Wizards an average defensive team.

Lillard’s defense, nothing to write home about, doesn’t hurt the Blazers overall, even as the Blazers are better defensively when Lillard is on the bench, 3.2 points better. His scoring when he reenters the game makes up for his deficiencies.

In this era of versatility, Wall is a more complete player. In this era of spacing the floor, Lillard dominates. Wall scores, dishes, steals, and blocks at elite rates, and is able to play great on-ball perimeter defense. He was named to the 2014-15 All-Defensive second team with players such as Jimmy Butler and Tim Duncan.

Lillard can score in bunches as his 51 point shooting night attests to. He came into the league with maturity after four years at Weber State, he came into the league with offensive skill but he was not the star of his team. This past summer, the Blazers lost their best player in LaMarcus Aldridge.

Damian Lillard has stepped up to the plate in a big way as the face of the Blazers franchise even though he fell a hair short of being named an All-Star. As a complete player, he trails John Wall.

Except where it counts, the playoffs in 2016.


photo via llananba