On Saturday, Portland Trail Blazers director of college scouting Chad Buchanan took a few minutes after his team's 2012 Las Vegas Summer League finale to discuss this year's class of rookies: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard and Will Barton. Coming on Tuesday: Blazers director of NBA scouting Mike Born breaking down the European additions -- Joel Freeland and Victor Claver -- as well as the two overseas prospects acquired from the New York Knicks in the Raymond Felton blockbuster trade: Georgios Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou.
Straight to the source for insight into the team's latest additions from the guys who spent the last two, three, four or even five years tracking their development. As always, transcripts are left in full.
Damian Lillard's week?
I thought he had a very solid four games. First half of the first game, he had some nerves, trying to get acclimated to his new teammates and the NBA game. I thought he settled in very nicely, continued to get better with each half. Very good with the ball, showed that he can run a team, very unselfish but can put the ball in the hole. A very positive week for him.
Damian Lillard's left-hand?
He's got big hands, good command of the ball. He's able to pick the ball up off the dribble and make a pass, which is tough to do. He's very good with either hand, he can finish with either hand, he has good body control. He does a very good job of getting to the rim and slowing down, getting ready to brace for a hit, reading the angles. How quickly do I have to get it out of my hands? Is there a drop pass, a lob pass? He goes fast to get to a spot and then slows down to make the decision from there, which is a great trait to have.
What to improve for Damian Lillard between now and training camp?
For me, defensively. See him really guarding the ball, fighting through screens. Really defending the ball, containing the ball. He exerts so much energy on offense, at our level there are some pretty talented point guards that he's going to have to defend. That's where he's got to improve. Offensively, that's going to come. Getting consistent with his floaters will be important but defensively is where we want to see improvement.
Damian Lillard comparison?
In a best case scenario down the road, [Blazers GM] Neil [Olshey] has talked a lot about Chauncey Billups for Damian. I think there are some similarities between those two guys and their temperament. Good pick and roll players. Not elite athletes but good enough athletes.
Meyers Leonard's week?
Typical for a young big. He's going to have his ups and downs. We knew that when we drafted him and we're going to continue to see that. Getting him to be consistent, his defensive rotations, consistently going after rebounds with two hands, going straight up contesting shots, staying out of foul trouble. That will be part of his development. The one thing he's always had is that he has a motor. He runs the floor, he plays so hard that he fatigues quickly. Getting him into great shape will be important.
Do you want to see Meyers Leonard put on weight?
I don't want to see him necessarily put a ton of weight on but I want to see his lower body get stronger. He plays a lot with his upper body, getting his lower body, his [rear end], his legs really strong. That's where you move people in our league. It's not with your upper body and your hands, it's getting position, establishing position, moving people. That's where he needs to develop his strength, in his lower half.
Meyers Leonard has an interesting personality -- seems like a "good dude"?
Very good-natured. Very caring for his teammates. He'll stand up for his teammates which is a great trait to have in the locker room. Likes to have fun but he knows when it's time to get serious. He can turn that on too. Great teammate.
Meyers Leonard comparison?
Ultimately in his development, I would like to see him be like an Anderson Varejao-type. I would throw Tyson Chandler in as a potential comparable player, along with Varejao.
He doesn't have the offensive skills of Brook [Lopez]. Brook was so skilled, even his senior year of high school. Great back-to-the-basket player. Brook had such an even distribution of strength. Once he got his position, you're like, 'OK, now I have block his shot, contest his shot or double him.'
With Meyers, you can lean on him, he doesn't have the strength yet or he's not as comfortable with his back to the basket. He can face up and shoot it kind of like Anderson can. Activity, big center. He's probably along that mold.
Will Barton's week?
He's an all-around utility guy. He can do a lot of things well. His length, his motor, his activity level. He's not a guy who stands and spectates. He has an antsiness to him that's good. Channeling that defensively, keeping in the right position, knowing when to gamble, when to stay solid. He didn't rebound today but he scored the ball well today. He's a guy who can do a lot of different things for you.
I think Kaleb [Canales] kind of featured him more offensively today, he showed what he can do, put the ball in the hole. He didn't make a lot of shots the first couple of games. He really settled in yesterday and today he was ultra-confident. He knew Damian wasn't out there, Meyers wasn't out there, Nolan wasn't out there, Luke wasn't out there, OK, I'm going to be aggressive today. He showed very well today.
Will Barton has to be a two, right?
I think he's a 2/3. Depending on the match-up, there will be certain threes that will be hard for him to defend. But he's probably right now more two than three. Ultimately I think he'll be able to play either position.
Will Barton comparison?
Will is a tough one. He does a lot of different things. We don't really have a good comp on him because he's a unique player. Usually you can pigeonhole two or three things a guy does really well and a couple of areas where there are weaknesses. That's how a majority of the players in our league are. But Will -- a good comp on him is tough.
Is it fair to say that part of reason he fell to the second round of the Draft is because he's tough to comp?
Lots of times the guys who do a lot of things good but nothing great make you ask, 'What does he hang his hat on?' If he's just good at some things, what does he do great that gets him on the court? Is it defend? Is it rebound? Is it shoot, create? Will just does a lot of things pretty well, but we also saw that he's a sophomore in college with a great motor with a lot of growth left in him. I don't know why he fell to where he did but we're very happy that he did. Other teams have different reasons for why they pass on a guy. It's just a small start for him, we want to see him continue to develop.
This is just a couple of games from Summer League -- you can't get too high or too low on a guy, even with Damian.
Luke Babbitt's week?
I think he was frustrated. I think he's very conscious of how well he shoots the ball, he knows that's what he has to hang his hat on. I think he was trying to add that he can do a little more off the dribble this week. This is the time of year to test that out. When he's not making shots, he's trying to do some things that aren't his strengths right now. He had mixed results with that.
But for him, he's got to continue shooting, keep simplifying the game. Once he gets into the season, you're a stretch four, catch-and-shoot, move it on, we're not going to ask you to do the things you're doing now [in Summer League].
Tough for Luke Babbitt next year with so much competition at the four? Would you push him down to the three as a corner shooter?
I think he's better suited to be a spread four. There's certain times you can play him as a three but he gets better quality shots at the four than the three. You even saw that here this week. He's got to be a knockdown shooter, you can put him at either spot. There's going to be certain nights where you're going to need a spread four and there will be nights we need more of a beast four. For us it's good to have that versatility with our power forward position. You've got LaMarcus [Aldridge], J.J. [Hickson] can play some four, Joel Freeland can play some four, Victor Claver can slide over. I think Luke has to settle in on the things he does well and hone in on that.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter