NBA Draft 2012: Ranking 5 Best Fits for Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard needs to be drafted by a team where he fits if he's going to succeed in the NBA.
Lillard, entering the draft after completing his junior year with Weber State, will end up being a lottery pick, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. He’s progressed in every aspect of the game over his four years (redshirted in 2010-'11) including scoring, shooting, rebounding and making plays.
Lillard’s draft stock has risen over the last few weeks even though he hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, according to B/R featured columnist Brian Mazique.
Even the official B/R twitter is high on Lillard.
Whole B/R office saying #Warriors should draft Damian Lillard & trade Steph Curry. Let Klay shoot jumpers and get the bum ankle out.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 12, 2012
In his junior year at Weber State, he averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. Playing for Weber State hasn’t helped his draft stock since not many get to see him play regularly, but he’s taken advantage of the attention he’s gotten at the NBA Draft Combine, according to Comcast Sportsnet’s Henry Wofford.
Lillard will need a good fit in order to succeed at the NBA level, and here are five teams that the point guard from Oakland will fit well with.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers own two of the first 11 selections in the draft, and one of those should goes toward a point guard. Raymond Felton and Johnny Flynn are both unrestricted free agents, while Jamal Crawford holds a player option for the 2012-'13 season.
If all three guards aren’t back with Portland, they’re going to need a scorer to fill those voids. Lillard was a good shooter in college and could take some of the pressure off of LaMarcus Aldridge’s shoulders.
ESPN’s Chad Forde thinks that Lillard will start at No. 6 (Portland) and could fall to No. 13 (Phoenix). In that scenario, Portland could get away with taking another player with the sixth pick and possibly still have a chance at Lillard at No. 11.
Although Portland desperately could use a center, drafting a point guard should also be high on their list. CBS Sports' Matt Moore thinks that Lillard could be the spark that Portland has been missing at the point over the last few years.
The Sacramento Kings would be an interesting option for Lillard, should he get drafted by them at No. 5.
There is plenty of competition at the point guard position but that could bring out the best in Lillard. As Jason Jones of the Deseret News writes, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette, among others, could all handle the ball for the Kings. Jones believes that if management isn’t satisfied with the current status at that position, Lillard would be a good option.
Could Lillard be the Kings’ starting point guard next season? He seems to think that he can handle it, according to Jones.
"I try not to say I'm going to do this or do that," Lillard said. "I just want to keep working, get better and see where it takes me. I definitely believe I can be a starting point guard."
Sacramento should take a risk on Lillard even at No. 5. He could end up being the starting point guard for many successful seasons to come.
New Orleans Hornets
Just like the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans hold two early draft picks at No. 1 and No. 10. It’s very unlikely that they select someone other than Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis with the top pick, but they could choose to take a guard with the latter of the two.
The Hornets made a major move to acquire Rashard Lewis from the Washington Wizards, according to Draft Express' Jonathan Givony, and now are in great position going into the draft. Even though New Orleans intends to buyout Lewis, that will open up a lot of cap space that can be put towards free agency. With Lewis gone, New Orleans should have Davis, Gordon, the No. 10 pick and a free agent as four of their five starters.
If Lillard is available at No. 10, he could fit nicely with the three aforementioned players. New Orleans doesn’t have a true point guard for the future, and Lillard could fill that void.
Lillard would get the opportunity to play alongside two very talented young players in Davis and Gordon, and would get the veteran aid of Lewis.
The Toronto Raptors are in dire need of some talent, and there’s a lot riding on their No. 8 pick. The Raptors do have Jose Calderon and Demar Derozan as their point and shooting guards, but Lillard would still be a great fit with them.
Derozan could easily shift to small forward and then Calderon and Lillard would share the ballhandling duties.
ESPN’s Chard Ford projects Toronto to select Lillard since Dion Waiters could be off of the board and they need a dynamic scorer. Last season, Toronto only had two players averaging more than 15 points per game. B/R correspondent Patrick Britton also believes that Lillard’s scoring ability makes him the best option for the Raptors.
Playing with the Raptors, Lillard wouldn’t have a ton of pressure since he’d be essentially sharing time at point guard, yet still on the floor regularly. He’s the scorer that Toronto needs badly, and he could make them contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Golden State Warriors
It’s obvious that the best fit for Damian Lillard would be with the Golden State Warriors. Do you know how I know? He said it, according to Boston Herald.
"I grew up a Warriors fan, I’m still a Warriors fan," Lillard, 21, said. "If I go somewhere else next year, that’ll be the first year I haven’t been a Warriors fan. I would love to play for my hometown team."
Golden State has a few of the most exciting players in the game including David Lee, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Curry, of course, stands in the way of Lillard at point guard. It might be possible for Curry to move to shooting guard and leave the door open for Lillard, but that’s still a long shot. Lillard would have to beat out Curry for the job.
Lillard would play much better playing for his favorite team. He wants to play for them. He wouldn’t be stuck playing for a team that he doesn’t like or in a city he doesn’t feel comfortable in. The Warriors have the No. 7 pick, and if they want to make a kid happy, they should draft Lillard.