When Damian Lillard sank a 37-foot shot at the end of Tuesday night's Game 5 to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, it ensured a few things: the three-pointer sent the Portland Trail Blazers into the second round of the 2019 NBA playoffs and eliminated OKC. It also firmly established Lillard as a top-10 NBA player and the third-best guard in all of basketball.

Ranking players is a largely subjective exercise, but there is no debate when it comes to where Lillard belongs among the league’s best.

Lillard isn't one of the NBA’s transcendent superstars. That category is reserved for the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Anthony Davis might have the talent to reach those heights, though he has yet to fully realize his potential.

James Harden and Kawhi Leonard are also on a level ahead of Lillard. Harden has put together a historic five-year stretch with what’s about to be four top-two MVP finishes. Leonard has already proven he can be the best player on a championship team.

But after those future first-ballot Hall of Famers? No one in the NBA is definitively ahead of Lillard, especially not the guards who haven't won MVP awards like Curry and Harden.

Damian Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook is no longer a discussion. Portland’s star was the best player in their five-game series by a mile, thoroughly outplaying Oklahoma City’s point guard in every way. Lillard averaged 33 points on 23 shots per game, scoring some of the most clutch baskets of this year’s postseason. Westbrook filled the stat sheet by nearly averaging a triple-double, but his lack of efficiency was damaging to the Thunder.

Chris Paul is no longer ahead of Lillard as he enters a new phase of his career after 14 seasons. You can't put Kyrie Irving ahead of Lillard either, even though the Boston Celtics’ guard is one of the few players that can match Lillard's ability to hit big shots. With the chance to make another All-NBA First Team this year, Lillard's regular-season resume dwarfs that of Irving's.

Neither Victor Oladipo nor Kemba Walker has ever won a playoff series. We all know what DeMar DeRozan has—or better yet hasn't—done in his postseason career.

Then there are the forwards and centers who have an argument to be considered among the league's 10 best players. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are on their way to the second round as the leaders of their respective teams. Before being eliminated by Lillard and the Blazers, Paul George had a regular season that might result in a third-place finish for the MVP award.

Jokic, Embiid and even George haven’t had the consistent yearly success of Lillard. Add in the fact that he's been the No.1 star in the entirety of this postseason’s first round and Lillard takes a backseat to none of those three names.

At worst, depending on how the voting goes, Lillard will have made an All-NBA First Team and two Second Teams in the last four years. His average season during that span has featured a stat line that looks like this: 26.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 19.5 shot attempts per game.

Lillard has been the best player on the No.3 seed in the Western Conference for two straight years. Portland would be considered a true contender if they were in the East.

The Blazers have six straight playoff appearances.

Last year was a black mark on Lillard’s resume when he scored just 18.5 points per game as Portland was swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round. He came back with a vengeance this season, capping off the first round with one of the gutsiest shots the league has ever witnessed.

"There's been a lot of back and forth, a lot of talk and all this stuff, and that was the last word. That was having the last word,” Lillard told reporters after Game 5 regarding the wave he directed at Oklahoma City's players when he made his buzzer-beater.

It was also the last word on his place in today's NBA. There can be no denying Lillard’s greatness now.

Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Reuters/Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports