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- Measurables: 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, junior guard from Weber State
- Key Stats: 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals per game, 41 percent shooting, 40 percent 3-point shooting
- Projected: Lottery
- Hickory High Similarity Score
Why I like this guy
Every year, it seems, I get overly giddy about super efficient under-the-radar guards. Last year, my guard of choice was Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins, who the Warriors took in the second round (and, if you haven’t noticed, he’s been playing pretty well the last few weeks since he started getting minutes after the Monta Ellis trade and Steph Curry injury issues). The year before that, I really liked South Florida’s Dominique Jones, who just got buckets, although that hasn’t really translated to the NBA (although his choice in tattoos is first rate).
This year, I’ve become a huge Damian Lillard fan, although it’s a stretch to call him under the radar anymore. Despite playing at Weber State, Lillard has become one of the top overall prospects in the draft. He’s a big point guard who can score off the dribble and who also shoots a great percentage for a guard. I love high efficiency guards, and few are more efficient than Lillard.
Pros for the Pistons
With Rodney Stuckey shifting to shooting guard, the Pistons don’t have a point guard on their roster who can consistently get his own shot off the dribble or on a pull-up. Lillard is not quite as big or strong as Stuckey, but he has been adept in college at getting to the line (eight free throw attempts per game this season). On top of that, he’s a natural shooter. Stuckey has worked to extend his range and that has finally paid off with better perimeter shooting this season, but he’s clearly more comfortable attacking the basket and opposing defenses clearly would rather have him shooting than driving right at their defense. With Lillard, he’s comfortable doing both. His shooting would be really valuable next to Stuckey and he and Stuckey would give the Pistons two guards who could potentially put opposing defenders in a lot of foul trouble with their physical styles.
Cons for the Pistons
Oh, I’m sorry … I forgot about Brandon Knight there for a second. Oops. The Pistons are already invested in developing a young point guard. Knight is a little younger than Lillard, but he also was not close to as polished a player entering the league as Lillard will be. Knight’s most NBA-ready element he’s shown this season has been his good long-range jumper. Like Lillard will have to learn as well, Knight is still trying to grasp running a NBA offense and transitioning into always looking for his own shot first into a player who sometimes looks for his own offense and sometimes sets up others. I like Lillard. I don’t know if he’ll be better than Knight or not. The one case that could be made is that Dumars has always shown an inclination to take who his personnel evaluators believe to be the best player/prospect available, even if it doesn’t fill an immediate need. That’s why he somewhat surprisingly grabbed Knight last year despite an obvious need for a big man. If the Pistons are picking near the bottom of the lottery again, there is a slight chance that the best player on the board when they pick could be Lillard. Not all of the big name big men have declared yet (notably,
Cody Zeller Edit: Zeller is reportedly staying and Andre Drummond have not made their intentions known), so there’s at least a slim chance that the bigs and the wings (Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones) could be gone. Dumars’ philosophy has always been to grab the player he believes is the best prospect available. If that’s Lillard, though, I would be surprised if he did that considering their investment in Knight.
What others are saying
Lillard is the highest-ranked prospect on our Big Board to not make it to the tournament. Luckily for him, he packed the house with NBA scouts for the Big Sky final against Montana and didn’t disappoint. Lillard had 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. With the exception of a weird stretch at the start of the second half where he disappeared for a few minutes, Lillard was in attack mode all night and showed off his strengths attacking the rim. When we moved him into the lottery in mid-February, there were still plenty of skeptics. Interestingly, a few weeks later, very few scouts or GMs remain unconvinced. Virtually every source I speak with has Lillard ranked as a lottery pick. The Jazz and Suns are obvious landing spots for him come draft night. Unless he really disappoints during workouts, I think Lillard is going to go high.
The large emphasis of the pick-and-roll game in today’s NBA bodes well for Lillard, as he’s shown to be very effective as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. His ability to smoothly pull up off the dribble from deep range makes it difficult for his defenders to go underneath the screen, while his burst off the dribble allows him to turn the corner quickly and get into the paint.
Lillard does a good job of playing at different speeds and is capable of driving in either direction, which keeps defenders on their heels and helps him get to the free throw line at a very strong rate. Once there, he knocks down an excellent 90% of his attempts.
Lillard has NBA talent, but like most mid-major prospects, he hasn’t proved that he can consistently produce against elite-level talent … A team looking for a scoring point guard could be willing to roll the dice on him, perhaps as soon as the mid/late-lottery
He’s been everything you could ask for in a college basketball player: a team leader, dedicated worker and good student.
“Anything good that has happened to Damian, for Damian, is because he’s worked for it,” Weber State coach Randy Rahe said Tuesday. “Nothing’s been handed to this guy. He’s a self-made player, he’s a self-made person, and that’s why he’s going to be successful. I really believe that’s what’s going to separate him throughout this (draft) process.
“He’s got the talent, but he’s got the intangibles that it takes to be very, very successful, and we know that’s going to happen.”
What is the best thing Damian Lillard does for his team?
It is hard to pick out one thing that Damian Lillard does best, because he does it all offensively. I thought he was the best point guard in America last year, and the numbers backed that claim up. He has unlimited range (41% 3PT), gets to the line as well as anyone (and shoots 89% when he gets there), and can get to the rim off the dribble. He is a good passer that looks to get his teammates involved, and takes great care of the basketball, as he had a low turnover rate despite dominating the ball for Weber State. Simply put, he can do it all on the offensive side of the ball, and will contribute there in a multitude of ways. He is an average defender, but has the physical tools to improve in that area.
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