David Thorpe of ESPN.com (Insider) breaks down various aspects of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard's game and compares him to other young point guards in hopes of answering the question: Will Lillard be a star?
His current PER ranks second to [Kyrie] Irving's last season for all these guards as rookies. Part of this success is due to his comfort at the position as the season began. [Russell] Westbrook had to learn how to be a lead guard after not doing much of it in college. Ditto [Jrue] Holiday. [Ty] Lawson was more of a manager than a scoring guard (a problem that still plagues him sometimes). [Stephen] Curry had to learn how to get teammates involved, while [Derrick] Rose had no clue how to use ball screens (he rarely used them in college).
Lillard is terrific, as a rookie, at all these things. He's excellent in the pick-and-roll game, patient in his game-managing as he lets plays develop, and aware that he must score for his team to win. He's not the shooter Irving is, or Curry, but he is far better than Rose, Westbrook or [John] Wall were at their rookie age, and maybe even today.
We still have a lot to study as Lillard plays out the season, and we won't know much about his defensive talents for another season or two. But it's clear he has a chance to get to the level of Rose, Westbrook or Irving, which is saying a lot. The Trail Blazers, as a franchise, have to be pleased that their pick has, at least, the talent and upside to be a potential All-Star.
He projects to be better than many of the starting guards who have entered the league in the past five seasons or so. And his rookie season has the potential to measure up to -- and even exceed -- them all, which is huge when you consider how marvelous Irving was just a season ago.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter