There’s one player I’m looking forward to watching in the NBA next season. And it isn’t Anthony Davis.
On June 28, the freshman power forward from the University of Kentucky will be selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He is the only lock (guaranteed selection at one) in the draft and many believe the only franchise-type player.
Although watching Davis develop into a top big man in the NBA will be exciting, it is a point guard from Weber State that has my attention.
His name: Damian Lillard.
The Oakland born 21-year old Lillard comes with many positives.
He is a scoring point guard and an excellent penetrator (into the key). He has a great perimeter game with deep, NBA range (from the three-point line). He is a good athlete with good lateral quickness. His is a strong, physical player. He rarely mistakes and possesses a high basketball IQ. He is super efficient for a player with his usage rate. And, he is an extremely hard worker.
Lillard has been compared to other Oakland guards Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. To be mentioned in the same sentence as those players is a great compliment. Lillard’s story however reminds me of the two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.
A. From high school to the collegiate ranks: College programs did not heavily recruit both Nash and Lillard with only one offer being proposed to them – Nash (Santa Clara), Lillard (Weber State).
B. Rise through the ranks: Look at both players’ stats and you will see similarities. That is they entered college, worked hard and continued to develop their games across the board – points, assists, rebounds and steals.
C. Leader of their respective teams: Nash was the reason for Santa Clara’s success in the West Coast Conference as too was Lillard in the Big Sky Conference with Weber State.
D. Build: The two players stand at 6’3’’. Lillard has the edge over Nash with the weight category, as he is around 10-12lbs heavier.
E: Style of play: Nash and Lillard have two key factors in common. Both are excellent outside shooters as well as highly effective when driving into the paint. Secondly, the two guards are flat out playmakers.
F: NBA Draft: Nash was selected 15th in 1996. Allen Iverson was the first pick, Marcus Camby the second. Lillard is expected to hear his name anywhere between picks six and 13. Davis is going one, that’s the only certainty in the 2012 draft. Interestingly, some NBA and NCAA experts have rated Davis with Camby – I’m not sure if that’s an insult or not, we will have to wait several years.
Lillard is known for being a scorer because at Weber State that’s what he was required to do. Nevertheless, he is also a very good playmaker (I rate him up there with Nash, enough said). Lillard made plays for his teammates and he will only get better when he takes to the court in the NBA.
Bleacherreport.com wrote recently that:
“According to scouts, his (Lillard) biggest weakness is the face 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.”
If Lillard played in a program such as Kentucky, UNC, UConn, Kansas, Baylor or Memphis, he would definitely be a high pick and I believe his stat sheet would be phenomenal, despite already being so.
He was the second-best scorer in college basketball last season with 24.5 points-per-game (ppg) – Reggie Hamilton from Oakland with 26.2ppg was first. He ranked with the lowest turnovers per possession (one turnover every 8.9 possessions) for any point guard in the country. And most importantly, his player efficiency rating was second only behind Anthony Davis.
At the recent NBA Draft Combine, Lillard impressed everyone. He shot the ball really well and just straight out competed. There is a lot of buzz around Lillard and he is the best point guard prospect in the draft.
So who will pick him up?
I expect Lillard to be selected by the Portland Trail Blazers or the New Orleans Hornets. Two other slight possibilities would be the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.
Portland has picks six and 11. I can’t see Lillard falling beyond pick 10. They’re likely to take centre Andre Drummond or Lillard. The Blazers are in rebound mode however desperately need a good point guard.
The Hornets get their main man (Davis) with the first overall pick. They also have pick 10. This is where I want Lillard to land. They’d have Lillard running the offence, Eric Gordon at the two with Davis down low. Only one word describes that: exciting. The outside shooting that Lillard brings is severely needed in New Orleans as they were ranked very low in the current season.
Toronto needs a good outside shooter. They will be hoping that North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes drops to pick eight but if he doesn’t, Lillard may be their guy. The other element is that the Raptors may trade their pick. That would throw a spanner in the works.
If Golden State doesn’t trade their pick, then they’ll most likely look for a small forward. Only a slight chance Lillard is drafted by the Warriors and lines up beside Australian Andrew Bogut.
As you can gather, I am a massive fan of Lillard. His game is very good at present and it is only going to get better with NBA players around him. An All-Star naming is only around the corner for this Oakland point guard.