RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Damian Lillard

Posted by AMurawa on June 11th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Damian Lillard

School: Weber State

Height/Weight: 6’2”, 189 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid/Late Lottery

Damian Lillard Has Shot Up the Draft Boards

Overview: Despite averaging 28 points per game as a senior at Oakland High in California, Damian Lillard was unable to grab the attention of any major colleges while in high school. No offers from the then-Pac-10, nary a nibble from Mountain West schools, nothing. Well, their oversight turned out to be Weber State’s gain as Lillard showed up on campus in 2008-09 and was immediately one of the best players in the Big Sky, averaging 11.5 points per game along with nearly four boards and three assists as a freshman. Over the years, those numbers only climbed, even as the Wildcats’ reliance on him did too. By his junior season last year (following a medical redshirt in 2010-11), Lillard was second in the nation in scoring average (24.5 PPG), as well as the most efficient high-usage player in the nation. Still, despite a three-point percentage north of 40%, a spectacular 88.7% from the free throw line and turnovers on just 12.3% of all possessions, Lillard still has some skeptics, due to the fact that the level of competition he faced on a nightly basis was substandard compared to many major conference point guards. For every night where he scored 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting against a borderline Top 25 team like Saint Mary’s, he turned in a stinker like his 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting against California. However, in the NBA Draft Combine last week, Lillard looked impressive and drew rave reviews from NBA talent evaluators. Already considered a likely lottery pick and perhaps the best point guard in the draft, Lillard may see his stock continue to climb if he can hold his own in pre-draft workouts.

Will Translate to the NBA: Lillard is a scoring point guard who can be deadly in pick-and-roll situations, a staple of the NBA game. If his defender goes under the screen, he’s got a lethal jumper that he can drill at a moment’s notice, while if his man tries to chase him over the screen, he’s capable of turning the corner and getting into the lane. Once in the lane, he’s got the athleticism, body control and total package of shots in order to score over, under or through defenders. He’s got a pull-up jumper, a little floater, and can even occasionally bang one down on a big man’s face when the situation presents itself. Better yet, when he draws contact (which he does on a regular basis), he’s capable of finishing through contact, then knocking down his shots from the charity stripe with precision.

Needs Work: At Weber State, Lillard’s role was as the team’s primary scorer, so while he has shown the ability to drop a dime to his teammates from time to time, he still needs to prove that he can be a playmaker when the opportunity presents itself against elite competition. By and large, he’s got good instincts for when to take the jumper and when to dish (as evidenced by his shooting percentages and low turnover numbers), but he needs to show that he can be just as effective getting his teammates involved as he is getting his own.

Comparison Players: Lillard could be now what Kyle Lowry has become. When Lowry first entered the NBA, his strength was in the pick-and-roll game and on the defensive end. But, slowly but surely, Lowry has extended his range out behind the three-point line and has become a very good shooter from there, forcing defenders to respect him both off the bounce and with the jumper. In the past two seasons, as that three-point range has solidified, Lowry has become a very good NBA point guard. Lillard’s already got that three-point shot, and he’s bigger and more athletic that the former Villanova star, giving him a bit of an advantage over Lowry at a similar point in his own career.

Best Case Scenario: Lillard’s got all the tools of a long-time NBA starter at the point, capable of maybe even sneaking into a couple All-Star Games in his prime. If he shows a willingness and ability to balance distributing the ball to his teammates with creating shots for himself, his future will be very bright. Continuing the Lowry comparison, so long as Lillard can adjust to the improved level of competition quickly, he could be capable of playing at Lowry’s current level in his first couple seasons in the league, while it took Lowry six seasons to reach that point.

Best NBA Fit: There are a lot of teams in the mid-to-late lottery who have less-than-settled point guard situations. Is Toronto really in love with Jose Calderon or Jerryd Bayless? Are either Jarrett Jack or Greivis Vasquez the long-term answer in New Orleans? Portland was in love with Raymond Felton for a few weeks, up until he put on their uniform, that is. But we’re going to drop Lillard in New Orleans to pair in pick-and-rolls with Anthony Davis for years to come.

Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “In a weak PG class, many feel Lillard is the cream of the crop. While not the true floor general of Marshall, Lillard is more of a sure thing due to his speed, quickness and scoring ability.”

*This post was contributed by RTC’s Drew Murawa. He can be found on Twitter @amurawa.

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