If you’ve been following the exploits of Damian Lillard, you may already know that he is participating in this year’s USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas. What you may not know is that he has not been locked to the point guard position. Since the camp is overflowing with high quality point guards (Irving, Lawson, Conley, Holiday, Walker, and Wall among them), Coach Krzyzewski has been blending the 1 and the 2 into simply, “guards.”
While the specifics of who is excelling and who is struggling have been a tip-toe topic for Coach K, it has been stated by players and coaches alike that Lillard is looking fantastic. Much of this is due to his undeniable range and ability to score. In another, shorter world, Lillard could experience similar success in the NBA as a shooting guard.
The beauty of this development, from a Blazer standpoint, is that Lillard should have no problem in a two point guard system. This would suggest that he and McCollum will be able to play off of each other without detracting from the other’s opportunities. If Portland decides to throw in a Houston-esque backcourt from time to time, Lillard and McCollum will share the court.
I anticipate Lillard running the point in this circumstance, because he is a much better facilitator, but the options are there; especially from the arc. Both players are liable to pull up at any time. Last season, Lillard was assisted on only 53.5% of made 3-pointers (for some perspective, Matthews and Batum were assisted on 88.8% and 92.1% respectively), so get ready for Lillard to catch fire when playing with another legitimate threat and capable passer up top.
McCollum should see improvement as well. In Summer League, McCollum looked like a less athletic, young Russell Westbrick. Granted Russell ignores better options to reach his quota, whereas McCollum simply had little help, but taking 26 shots to score 22 points was admittedly concerning. Sharing the court with Lillard, McCollum should revisit his collegiate efficiency at a professional level.
Of course, Matthews will remain Portland’s starting shooting guard, but basketball is a game of options. If Terry Stotts likes the dual point guard approach, we may see a little razzle-dazzle push Wes to 6th man by season’s end (a role he is well suited for). In the meantime, Lillard’s success in Vegas bodes extremely well for the fluidity of this year’s team in either lineup.