The Portland Trail Blazers selected Damian Lillard for the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, and in doing so, have chosen a star in the making at the point guard position.
Lillard enters the league as a prolific scorer whose skill set is among the best that the 2012 draft class had to offer.
At 6’3”, 195 pounds, Lillard is compared athletically to NBA megastar Derrick Rose.
He is a phenomenal athlete who can get to the rim and finish strong against much bigger competition. Whether it be in the half court or at the fast break, Lillard plays with relentless aggression and can penetrate with his strong, physical style.
However, not many players can succeed in the NBA on athleticism alone, which is why Lillard’s phenomenal skill set will be what keeps him from fizzling out as a score-first point guard.
Although making a Lillard-Rose comparison is extremely premature, Lillard could prove to be the more dynamic player of the two with his incredible shooting ability.
The 6’3” point guard is a drop-dead shooter with deep range. Having shot 40.9 percent from the three-point line last year, Lillard will be one of the Blazers’ top options on the perimeter upon his arrival next season.
But like virtually every NBA prospect in this year’s draft, Lillard enters the league with some questions that need answering.
Having played at a mid-major school the past few seasons, many wonder if he’ll be able to keep up with the NBA competition during an 82-game season.
Only time will tell, but his fantastic motor and incredible work ethic should help propel him to success if he struggles to adjust early.
Lillard is an extremely hard worker, and there’s almost no situation in which you can picture the guard giving up if faced with adversity.
There’s also the question of how well he’ll transition from a scorer to a facilitator at the next level.
Lillard averaged 24.5 points to just four assists last season. You’d like to see your point guard’s assist total be higher, but remember, Lillard was a scorer by necessity; not by selfishness.
His 15.5 shots per game last year was a career high, as his team needed him to take on a scoring role from day one of the college basketball season.
The year before, his shot total was just 11.2 per game, yet he still managed to total nearly 18 points per contest.
Because of his shooting and scoring ability, Lillard enters the league as an underrated pick-and-role point guard.
Lillard was not surrounded by elite talent in college, but with the Trail Blazers next year, he’ll have at least one other scorer who will allow him to distribute—LaMarcus Aldridge.
The All-Star power forward has one of the sweetest shots of any NBA big man, and once he establishes a two-man game with Lillard, the two of them will be threats to score all over the floor.
Aldridge will be the team’s go-to scorer next season; there is no doubt about that.
But allowing Lillard to take a No. 2 role on the team early in his career will only sharpen his tools as a passer and open him up for better looks moving forward.
These two will help take the burden off of each other, but as we look into the future, it’s easy to image the Trail Blazers becoming Damian Lillard’s team.
With today’s star point guards able to play with the athleticism and scoring ability of some of the league’s best wings, Lillard should fit in nicely very early in his NBA career.
Lillard wasn’t just drafted to a team that needed a point guard; he was drafted to a team that needed a talent.
Following the departure of Brandon Roy last year, Aldridge picked up the slack, but it was clear that he could not do it on his own, as the team failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The Blazers finally landed their point guard of the future, but if Lillard grows the way his talent suggests, they just might have landed the league’s next great star.
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