Like every other Blazer fan, I've been thrilled to see how well Damian Lillard has acquitted himself in Summer League so far. Everything in Summer League has to be taken with a huge grain of salt, but the poise and skill he's shown so far has been encouraging to say the least.
Everyone's favorite game when talking about promising rookies is coming up with the perfect "comp." I've already heard Lillard compared to a lot of other well-known point guards, including Derrick Rose. I can see the physical resemblance there, but that's about where it ends for me. But when I watch Lillard play, he does very much remind me of another great player. His name is Brandon Roy.
Though Lillard is shorter and faster than Roy, he displays the same kind of poise and comfort in traffic, the same ability to gain separation and weave through defenders by switching speeds, the same sort of control and nearly ambidextrous attacking and finishing skills. His forays into the lane on drives and pick-n-rolls show a high basketball IQ and a good intuition for play-making. And outwardly he projects the same sort of quiet confidence and maturity, the hallmark of a 4 year college player who has already worked very hard to become a well-rounded player. In fact, the comparison is so striking that if Lillard were a few inches taller and a little bigger, he would long ago have been labeled Roy 2.0.
What's fascinating to me is this Roy-like skillset may be a better fit for Lillard than it was for Roy. I don't think anyone doubts that Brandon Roy had the basketball IQ and distribution skills to be an excellent point guard. He just wasn't built for it. He wasn't fast enough, which meant he couldn't push the tempo on offense or guard opposing teams point guards. So he was forced to be a ball-dominant shooting guard, a type of player that is often hard to build an offensive system around.
But my hope is that with his smaller, faster frame, Lillard can make better use of these Roy-like skills. He can be as ball-dominant as he likes without disrupting the team's offensive flow. We can surround him with wings who can shoot (like Matthews, Batum, and Babbitt) and he can do all the driving and play-making he wants. Again, it's all very early and you don't want to read too much into a few Summer League games, but the prospect of having a player that brings all of Roy's best qualities to the point guard position is tantalizing to say the least.