NBA Draft 2012: Damian Lillard Climbs from Obscurity

Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterJune 20, 2012

When it comes to highly-touted prospects from smaller college programs, the pre-draft process tends to lean towards extremes; the buzz is either non-existent or spreading like wildfire, as highlight clips and morsels of analysis begin to surface regarding players that most have never seen play.

Such has been the case with Damian Lillard of Weber State -- a player who has popped up on the radar playing for a team that most haven't bothered with. It's nothing against Weber State, who was an unfortunate casualty in the NCAA's sea of teams.

There's enough college basketball to drown in, and while that may make for a happy death to college ball junkies and draft aficionados, it makes it a bit difficult to get a thorough understanding of the skill sets of every player on the board. It takes more than a brief scouting report to get a feel for a player's performance, and with players like Lillard, we're often left going on momentum more than anything else.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what stokes the flames when a score-first guard climbs up draft boards, if only because that archetype is so often criticized.

Lillard looks to be an intriguing prospect, but he's far from the pure point mold that typically gets scouts drooling. He enters the NBA on the strength of being one of college basketball's top scorers, a strong outside shooter, and a careful ball-handler, but he doesn't seem to have much of a pedigree in terms of his offensive orchestration. 

Then again, maybe that's an aspect of Lillard's game that -- through his usage at Weber State and our lack of a usable sample size (given exposure and competition level) -- we just haven't seen yet. It's honestly a bit tough to say, and that's likely (in part) why those of us who haven't scouted Lillard intently find him so alluring.

The range is there and the shooting touch -- in spot-up situations and off the dribble -- is there. Everything beyond that is a bit of a mystery, but seemingly comfortably within Lillard's perceived potential. He may never be an elite playmaker, but from our glimpses thus far, there's little reason to doubt his physical tools or feel for the game.

Video via Draft Express.

And sometimes with draft prospects, that's all we really need. We've seen the ins and outs of Harrison Barnes' game and had a chance to strip Perry Jones III down to bare bones. We use harsh lights and a clinical examination to more thoroughly understand the performance of every big-time player at a big-time school, all while lesser known commodities like Lillard are left to be quaint draft surprises. I'm not declaring that Lillard is anything other than what he is -- the problem is that no matter how much highlight footage we consume, we may not rightfully understand him for quite some time.