is down here in Las Vegas and has some early thoughts
on Portland Trail Blazers rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.
Damian Lillard has drawn so many rave reviews that it almost makes you nervous. He’s averaging 26 points per game and has shot 7-of-17 from three-point range despite clearly having the green light to gun and stretch the limits of his game. He has appeared very comfortable in control of Portland’s offense, running pick-and-rolls, directing guys to their spots and fighting through contact with surprising strength. Lillard goes left a ton, and he’ll have to mix that up more when the real games start. But he has been very, very impressive — he’s the first name that most executives and coaches mention when picking their brains about the best players this week.
Meyers Leonard has moments in every game during which he reminds you that he’s a far cry from the stiff that you might expect upon first seeing him. He jumped off screeners on a few pick-and-rolls to trap ball-handlers all the way out to midcourt, and he managed to scramble back to his original assignment in time to contain things in the interior. Plays like that, from a seven-footer, stand out. Leonard also runs the floor well for a guy his size and got to the free throw line 10 times in Portland’s first two games.
He also committed 13 fouls in those two games, however, and has occasionally found himself out of position after chasing blocks that he had no chance to make. Leonard hasn’t been nearly as polished as Cleveland’s Tyler Zeller, his frequent pre-draft workout partner, but there’s certainly an NBA player here somewhere.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter