Damian Lillard to Trailblazers: Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Analysis
As perhaps the best small-school prospect in the 2012 NBA Draft, there was certainly plenty of discussion regarding Weber State guard Damian Lillard. He dominated inferior competition in the Big Sky Conference and there was some question as to whether his game would translate to the NBA, but it's obvious that there is a belief that he can get the job done.
After missing the vast majority of the 2010-11 season, nobody knew if Lillard would be able to return to form immediately, but he certainly did as he averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists per game for the Wildcats this past season.
The fact that Lillard has NBA talent simply cannot be argued against, but it remains to be seen whether his gaudy statistics were more the product of him being a great player or of him facing lower-caliber players and teams.
We'll certainly find out soon enough as he will be expected to develop into a very good player at the next level.
What Lillard Brings to the Team
There weren't many highly-rated true point guards in this draft, and there is no doubt that Lillard's stock benefited from that. At 6'2" and 190 pounds, he has ideal size, but he doesn't have a traditional point guard skill set. He is much more adept at scoring than he is at getting his teammates involved, as evidenced by his college statistics. But he isn't a sieve as a passer by any means.
In terms of being a scorer, though, Lillard can truly do it all. Not only is he among the best jump shooters in the draft, but he loves to get to the rim as well. Lillard shot almost 41 percent from beyond the arc this past season despite attempting over seven trifectas per game, so it's obvious that he has the range to succeed in the NBA.
He also attempted an impressive eight free throws per game and hit them at nearly an 89 percent clip, meaning that he is truly the total package as an offensive player. Again, it remains to be seen if he can yield similar results against the best of the best, but the potential is certainly there.
What Experts Are Saying
Ahead of the NBA Draft, ESPN college basketball analyst Chad Ford had plenty of good things to say about Lillard as he ranked him as the draft's best point guard and No. 12 prospect overall. He called him an "excellent penetrator" and "good athlete" and believed that he would be a lottery pick.
Lillard was the second-leading scorer in college basketball this season and had the second-highest PER. He played for a small school, but the more NBA teams began scouting him, the more they believed he was a big-time talent. While he's been primarily a scorer in college, scouts believe he can make the transition to the point in the NBA. I expect him to be the first or second point guard off the board, going somewhere between 8 and 14.
The key for Lillard's success in the NBA will likely hinge on what Ford described. While he was a shoot-first point guard at Weber State, he will likely be expected to improve his play-making skills at the next level. If he can pull that off, then he has superstar ability.
Lillard's contributions during the 2012-13 season will likely have a lot to do with how he performs in training camp and during the preseason, but it's clear that he was taken in the draft so that he could play right away as well as in the future.
He has so much ability to score the ball that he should be a big part of the rotation at the very least. MarShon Brooks was a big-time player off the bench for the New Jersey Nets this past season, and I could definitely see Lillard playing a similar role this season for his squad.
He'll be given every opportunity to prove himself and earn playing time, and it will be up to him to make the most out of those chances.
Although Raymond Felton spread the ball around well last season for Portland, there was a glaring void on the Trailblazers squad without a point guard who could both distribute and score on a consistent basis. Damian Lillard does more than fill that void. Lillard was an absolute stud for Weber State, challenging defenders as a speedy guard with elite ball-handling skills and a solid motor.
But Lillard is also a serious threat because of his outside shot, which he can hit both from behind the arc and off the dribble. He may just be the missing piece of the puzzle for Portland that can seamlessly work with LaMarcus Aldrige for the pick and roll.
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