2012 NBA Draft Prospect: Damian Lillard from Weber State
Out of Weber State, Damian Lillard is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft. At 6'2", the point guard has an excellent frame and wingspan combined with his athleticism. His hometown is Oakland, California—and hey, we all know how good Oakland guards have been in the past (Jason Kidd, Gary Payton).
Lillard destroyed opposing teams for an average of 24.5 points, five rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals per game. Let's put it into perspective for fans who might not have seen the kid play: He had the second-highest points per game average in the nation, and was second in player efficiency rating, only behind Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
He knows how to score, and can do it in a variety of ways. Give him some space and he has the range to hit the jumper on you, play him tight and he'll blow by you with a dribble-drive.
He shot over 40 percent from the beyond the arc last season, and this type of range allows him to keep the defenders guessing with pump fakes leading to dribble drive pull-ups.
His size and athleticism allow him to impact the game in other ways than just scoring the ball; he's a terrific rebounder for his size and has the ability to dish it out to the open man. He is a shoot-first point guard, but in today's league, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that. He also played on a below-average squad at Weber State, so much of his "lack of passing" could be a result of that.
I've seen him get careless with the ball, and he definitely needs to work on his turnover rate once he enters the NBA. That's something he'll improve on once he gets some games under his belt and his coach works on his in-game control and patience.
According to scouts, his biggest weakness is the fact he played at a lower competition level at Weber State; GMs are having a difficult time figuring out how that would translate in the NBA.
In my opinion, the main thing he needs to work on is his decision-making in the open court: he's a lot more effective in half-court situations, but if he's able to control the tempo in transition, his effectiveness and impact will go up immediately. He's not a "true" PG, but in a draft that's weak at the position, his scoring ability will push his draft stock up to the top-10 level.
I'm honestly sick of hearing that his game might not translate well into the NBA because he played out in the Big Sky conference. If he played in a better/more well-known program, I think he'd be locked in as a top-seven pick.
In my mock draft, I projected him to be drafted at No. 10 by the Hornets. They've got a great coach in Monty Williams, Eric Gordon at the wing creating space for Lillard and a pick-and-roll partner in Anthony Davis. There's no other way to describe it other than the perfect situation.
I've seen some mock drafts that have Lillard going to Portland at the No. 6 pick. Although I had Portland taking a chance on Andre Drummond (adding a big down low to play alongside LeMarcus Aldridge), the Lillard pick makes some sense too. Lillard fulfills Portland's future needs at guard extremely well, and as a result, it's being speculated that, if selected at the No. 6 pick, he will be a starter and impact player for them for years to come.
If I'm the Blazers, I take a good, long look at him: he's one of my favorite prospects that Portland definitely has the chance of drafting. He gets to the line eight-plus times a game, shoots 40 percent from three-point range and if he continues to be the gym rat he is, he's most certainly worth the pick.
There will probably be an adjustment period for him to develop certain point guard skills to adapt to the NBA game, but there's no reason to doubt him. I still contend that Portland should go after Drummond at No. 6, and if Lillard is available at No. 11, take him then. Regardless, if Lillard finds himself a Blazer or a Hornet (at No. 10 pick), he'll have ample opportunity to develop and shine.
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