Photo Courtesy of Chris Detrick/Salt Lake Tribune
Just who exactly are the Trail Blazers targeting with their No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming June 28th draft? No one knows. But everyone loves to guess as evidenced by the seven different prospects
that have been mocked to the Trail Blazers at that sixth slot with just 15 days until everything comes to fruition. But yesterday, on 1080 The Fan, General Manager Neil Olshey provided some valuable insight on the Blazers brass' thinking in regards to each pick:
"Like I said, we'll do our due diligence, we're doing our workouts, we've got a tone of film and background information, physiological, we've done all the live scouting, we've got the analytics. Right now, we're just kind of digging in. At least now we're kind of comparing apples to apples. We've funneled it down to probably three or four guys at each selection and we're going to look at the best aggregated results in the organization between the two picks.
Is one of those three or four prospects at No. 6, Weber State point guard Damian Lillard? According to Chad Ford's mock draft
released today, Lillard is definitely in play for Rip City early on in the draft and believes he could be a similar type player to that of Derrick Rose.
Ford's right. Damian Lillard isn't on Derrick Rose's level as a prospect. But that's not a knock on Lillard as Rose was a once-in-a-decade guard who led Memphis to the NCAA Championship game as a Freshman and won the NBA's MVP in just his third season at the ridiculously young age of 22. Even in Lillard ends up being Derrick Rose-lite, that's a positive for a franchise, in Portland, that desperately needs leadership and stability from the lead guard position. Rather than shy away from the draft combine in Chicago as often you see from potential Top 10 picks, Lillard showed off his competitive nature by not only participating but leaving the Windy City as one of the draft's hottest prospects.
Weber State's Damian Lillard was the real star of the draft combine. He was the best player to agree to do the drills and it paid off for him. Many of the NBA executives in attendance had never seen him play in person before and the rest had only seen him only a handful of times. Lillard shot the lights out, had a couple of terrific dunks in the drills and 3-on-3 play, played hard and was very good in interviews with teams.
And the similarities to Rose don't end on the hardwood for Lillard, either.
His measurements also turned out to be eerily similar to Derrick Rose. Rose measured 6-1 1/2 in socks and 6-2 1/2 in shoes in Chicago in 2008. Lillard was 6-1 3/4 in socks and 6-2 3/4 in shoes. Rose had a 6-8 wingspan, while Lillard had a 6-7 3/4 wingspan. Rose weighed 196 pounds, while Lillard weighed 188. Both players measured with a 40-inch max vertical. Given Lillard's rep as a scoring point guard, he's got to like the similarities.
Even though Lillard has the talent and physical attributes to warrant a lottery selection, it's his drive and desire to become great which make him most attractive as a prospect and potential future Trail Blazer. Sports Illustrated
caught up with him to produce a feature-length article which portrayed his journey from an Oakland, CA youth to mid-major All-American to 2012 NBA Draft pick.
"The more I started to shoot, to get a lot of reps up, the more I started to make a lot of shots," Lillard said. "And then I started to hold myself to a standard, like, 'All right, I'm going to make 10 shots, but I'm only going to give myself 12 shots to make 10. And if I don't, then I'm going to stand in this spot until I make 10 of 12.' I think that's when I started to be a shotmaker."
"Oakland breeds toughness, and guys who don't back down and will guard whoever," Lillard said. "So I definitely want to hold that standard so people see that I'm an Oakland guard. I've got that same fire to me as those other guards, and hopefully I'll prove myself."
His will to win reminds me a lot of current Trail Blazer, Wesley Matthews. And conveniently enough, in an interview with Draft Express
after the Draft Lottery was complete, Matthews didn't beat around the bush when asked the type of player he wants to go into battle with 82 games a year.
"We need winners. People who are tough. People who don't like losing. Players who, if they lose a shooting drill, they lose their minds. Guys that play with a lot of heart and are unselfish. Guys that will sacrifice personal stuff for the team."
On June 28th, 2012, you just might get what you asked for, Wesley. Until then, check out the first episode of "License to Lillard: The Beginning" which shows how Damian is getting himself prepared for draft night.