Point Guard, 6’2″, 189 lbs.
Junior, Weber State University
21 years old
Damian Lillard Highlights
2011-12 Stats: 24.5 PPG (46.7% FG, 88.7% FT, 40.9% 3FG), 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 2.3 TOPG
STRENGTHS: Damian Lillard is a big-time scorer. The Weber State guard can score in a variety of ways, a strength he confirmed by posting the 2nd highest PPG average in college basketball. He excels on the perimeter, both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot opportunities. His range stretches easily to the three-point line. When driving to the lane, he shows a strong ability to take contact, thanks to a solid frame that compares favorably to any point guard. As an added bonus, Lillard is superb from the foul line. He has shown tremendous improvement in his game since being a lightly recruited high schooler. This speaks to his work ethic, an asset that will help him immensely in the NBA. All signs point to him being a high character guy.
WEAKNESSES: Small school. Lillard can only play the teams on his schedule, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning when you’re discussing a player who was beating up on Sacramento State in college. The transition to the pros will be greater for Lillard than that of larger school prospects. Lillard was asked to carry a heavy scoring load in college, bringing into question his playmaking skills for teammates. It’s not to say he doesn’t have them, but it wasn’t a trait on display. Defensively, he needs to show more commitment. He has the physical tools and desire to improve, but right now, he’d be a liability defensively.
HOW HE’D FIT WITH THE KINGS: If you’re picking Lillard, you’re basically saying that Tyreke Evans isn’t a long-term point guard — which we’ve more or less come to grips with — and Isaiah Thomas cannot be a starter — which is far less set in stone. Lillard would enter into an immediate competition with Thomas for the starting point guard role, assuming Evans stays at small forward. Lillard can score, stretch the floor and play off the ball, meaning you can slot him next to Evans on the floor. He has ball-handling and penetration skills, but he’ll have to adjust his mindset to be more of a passer in the pros. Once he does that, he’d be an asset next to the Kings shooters Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton. Down the line, the Kings would be banking on him becoming a starting guard, making Isaiah Thomas the general of the second unit, a pleasant proposition if Lillard is a capable starter.
APPROVAL: No. I’m not sold on Lillard being a can’t-miss point guard prospect, and that’s the only kind I’d be willing to bring in right now. At this point, can anyone doubt Isaiah Thomas’ ability to become a starting point guard in the NBA? He showed a great ability to lead the team, orchestrate the offense and look for his own scoring when given the opportunity. Lillard is an unknown at this point who hasn’t been strongly tested at the collegiate level. I’m only using a top-five pick on a guard if I feel he’s clearly the best player available (say, Bradley Beal). Personally, I’m not sold Lillard is that guy.
WHERE HE GOES: Lillard has seemingly surpassed Kendall Marshall as the draft’s top point guard, meaning he should be a lottery pick. He worked out for the Kings (5), which would appear to be his highest possible position. Chad Ford of ESPN says the Kings like Lillard. Portland (6, 11) has a known hole at point guard, and Lillard could also be a fit for Toronto (8), New Orleans (10) and Houston (14). Hard to see him falling past that point, unless those teams show a preference for Marshall.