Any Given Thursday

by Rich Shen and Austin Lim | 1/8/15 7:48pm

‘Sup y’all? Hope everyone had a good winter break and hasn’t died of hypothermia yet (according to weather.com it feels like -21, woo!). Rich is back on campus this term and has decided to actually help out with the column, so we’re looking forward to another exciting term of “Any Given Thursday.” With the college football playoffs coming to an end, we decided that we would write this article about which National Basketball Association player we would build a team around. With the emergence of several new superstars in the NBA this year, including Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis, we began dreaming of scenarios to play general manager. After much thought, Rich decided on Damian Lillard and Austin decided on Rajon Rondo.

The case for Lillard:

If there were one fact about the NBA that everybody knows but no one wants to admit, it would be that no one — not even the players — cares about what happens in a game until the final five minutes. In those waning moments, who do you want on your team? The guy who can hit the game-winning shot. No one in the NBA is better in those moments than Damian Lillard.

I imagine that most of us — particularly the Houston Rockets fans among us — can distinctly remember Lillard’s series-winning three-pointer in the Western Conference playoffs last year. Few players in the NBA would have dared to take that shot, and even fewer would have made it.

The remarkable thing about Lillard, though, is that he makes those kinds of game-winning plays all the time. Over his career, Lillard has played in 15 regular season overtime games. His numbers during those periods? 68 percent from the field, 95 percent from the line and — perhaps most impressively — 55 percent from beyond the three-point line.

Basically, if the Trail Blazers need Lillard to make a game-winning three, it would be a better bet to assume that he’d hit the shot than miss it. So, yeah, let’s be honest here — if you could pick any player in the NBA with whom to start a team, how could it not be Damian Lillard?

The case for Rondo:

I’m going to start by saying that I know he can’t shoot. He has consistently proven that he is not a pure scorer, and he will never be the main scoring option on a team. Having said that, his recent trade to the Mavericks and his performance, especially on defense, has reminded me how great of a team you could build around him.

By his own admittance, he hasn’t played defense in a few years (why would he since he played for the Celtics...). A newly invigorated Rondo has shown how impactful he can be on the defensive side of the ball. He has the best defensive ranking in the NBA at point guard since he’s been playing with the Dallas Mavericks, with opposing teams averaging 93.4 points per 100 possessions.

He rounds out his defense with unbelievable spacial awareness, as well as the ability to score enough to keep the defense honest. He’s averaging about 12 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds a game and is the league’s most veritable threat to have a triple-double every time he steps onto the court.

Since the Mavs already had an elite floor general in Monta Ellis, people have voiced concerns about how Rondo would fit into the Mavs’ system, but Rondo quickly proved that he’s capable of meshing with any type of player. Ellis’s numbers haven’t changed, and the Mavericks are rolling, looking like more of a contender after every game. Rajon Rondo is a coach’s dream — unselfish, intelligent and incredibly gifted, and would be my choice to build an NBA team around.

This is our first installment of “Any Given Thursday” for the term, and we hope you enjoyed it. If you have a topic that you think would be interesting, feel free to blitz either of us, and we’ll consider it — unless it’s bad. Anyway, thanks for reading. Stay warm, and don’t fail your classes. Peace.