We're less than a week out from the draft, and discussion about #6 is perkolating to a boil. The Blazers truly have the most difficult pick in all of the lottery. After a consensus "Big 5" group of prospects, the possibilities of what to do are endless. However, the importance in the result of #6 is at critical mass for the Blazers. The decison on #6 has to bear fruit for the sake of a positive future. This can't be Martell Webster time, or it will set the Blazers "retool" plan back even farther. It seems as though Damian Lillard's name is the popular one oozing out of everyone's mouth as the flavor of the week. So let's break it down:
THE GOOD: Starting with his physical skills, the kid flat knows how to score the ball in a variety of ways, and his efficiency doing so is startling good. When the Blazers would need to get a hoop out of an LMA double team, or needing someone to create a shot for themselves late in the shot clock, this kid can knock it down without reservation. The Blazers have sorely lacked a consistent outside shooter, and Lillard could go a long way in curing that ill. When I heard he compared to Derrick Rose at the combine in terms of his athleticism, it made me take notice of him seriously for the first time since he's been mentioned as a possible choice for Portland. Uber-Athletic PGs are beginning to become a trend in the NBA, and the way he can get to the rim and finish, or break through a trap at mid-court and run a fast break, is something Portland has NEVER had at the PG spot. I love his intangibles. He and Harrison Barnes sound like the two most polished kids in terms of attitude and confidence. He speaks directly and you can tell he has a chip on his shoulder, in a good way. You can tell he wants to be great and prove doubters wrong. His athletic ability and deadly shooting, coupled with a winner's attitude, could prove that he will eventually become a great leader of a team.
THE BAD: Being the biggest fish in the Big Sky pond, isn't saying much. You have to wonder why he wasn't recruited to a major school. If someone has that detail, please enlighten me. I heard the question asked to him, but his answer was weak "I flew under the radar being from Oakland" Really? I think Oaktown is known for churning out PGs. Back to the D-Rose comparison, the flip-side of that is D-Rose was leading his team to a national title game as a freshman, not the Big Sky tourney. I am afraid his stats and efficiency are somewhat skewed by playing against weak competition, and when he has played against teams from legit leagues, he in fact struggled. My biggest fear is that he has no idea how to direct an NBA offense. When you were asked to be a scorer almost exclusively, you don't develop much in the way of a distributor or facilitator. He would instantly be asked to do that here, and at a high level. I think the veterans on the team, especially Aldridge could become highly frustrated with him as a rookie. If they start losing badly out of the gate because the offense sputters with Lillard, the season will go downhill fast, finger pointing will occur, and the fans will be in for another frustrating season blaming management on giving the reins to a kid who was nothing more than an athletic, one trick pony who could shoot the ball a little. Essentially, Jerryd Bayless 2.0. His defense is also terrible. He definitely saves himself for offense. When you are getting blown by against Big Sky competition, that is a huge red flag. It's great when you come to Portland for a workout and hit 98 out of 100 shots, but he has DEMANDED solo workouts so he's not playing against anybody else. If he can't guard anybody, he won't play in this league PERIOD! That's a simple fact. He has the athleticism to become a better defender, but you have to want to do it. I don't know if he wants to. That's very scary.
THE UGLY: Starting with his defense, we would immediately be in a hole next year as opposing teams PGs will have an easy time establishing a rhythm and flow for their teams. It could be last season all over again, constantly getting behind early, and settling for jump shots on the other end. There are going to be growing pains no question, but the bigger issue could end up being, LMA, Batum, and Wes, not wanting to play with someone that young and inexperienced. Especially LMA. I can't see him wanting to spend his prime, waiting for a rookie PG to figure it out. Soon trade demands could be made, and then you would find the Blazers in a position of choosing: We're gonna ride the kid cause we took him early, and will live with his mistakes. Then you deal LMA, and find yourself in a total rebuild with youth mode. Or you own up AGAIN, that you still haven't figured out the permanent PG spot and look for veteran help. Either way, you stagnate the team and the timeline to progress forward until you decide. A rookie PG coming in with as many question marks as he does, could lead your All-Star player to call for a trade. That could set this team back much further than it plans to, being in a "retool" mode. Fans would have to accept lottery for the foreseeable future, and hope that Lillard improves quickly.
BOTTOM LINE: I like Lillard, I don't love him. Plus I don't like just handing the team over to him. And given you have an All- Star big entering is prime, I think pairing a rookie PG with him is a risk. The only way I see it working is if the Blazers could land Steve Nash for a reasonable price, and then they could ease Lillard in for a year or two. That's the best scenario for taking Lillard at #6. No pressure early on, and get the best teacher for running an offense. Plus Nash went to a small school in the WCC, so he could really be the perfect Sensei for Lillard. However both are defensive liability's, so that remains an issue. My preferred plan would be to see if we can trade #6 and the 2nd rounders for Kyle Lowry and either #14 or #16. You can check my other post on that plan.