No, it’s not because Damian Lillard is on his way to the top, it’s because each of Portland’s point guards learned from the bottom. Instead of declaring for the NBA draft ASAP, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and even Earl Watson attended 4 years of college.
With the exception of Watson, the Blazers’ point guard rotation is very young, but far from inexperienced. I would not be surprised to see more teams take the 4-year point guard route when making NBA draft considerations. After seeing Austin Rivers enter the league before he was ready, I suspect more players will opt to stay in school too.
It’s just what you want for the player that runs your offense. If you’re going to start a young player, you’d better hope they know what they’re doing. The Blazers are 1 of just 3 teams out of 30 who have exclusively 4-year point guards (Pacers and Magic being the other two). In good health, it’s a tremendous advantage.
We’ve all been ruthlessly familiarized with the benefits Lillard reaped from staying in school, so let’s look at our newest Blazers. Watson attended UCLA where he was mentored by a retired legend, John Wooden. He started all 4 years and tallied the most consecutive career starts in Bruins history. Since learning from the best, he plans to become a coach in retirement, and is the ideal shoulder angel for Lillard and McCollum.
McCollum graduated from Lehigh with a degree in journalism. It’s very difficult for NBA players to get a degree while in school, even if they attend for four years; Lillard, himself, fell one class short. In 2010 and 2012, McCollum won Patriot League Player of the Year, before breaking his left foot senior year and missing nomination. He is an elite, NBA ready scorer.
So despite a normally callow youth, the Blazer backcourt has begun with high placement on the learning curve. Mistakes will be made, sure, but the amount of time it will take to mature past them is minimal. Portland is on the fast track to having an elite facilitator rotation.