Portland Trail Blazers: Counting down the most interesting Draft player comparisons in team history

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

Damian Lillard, Weber State: 2008-09 — 2011-12

Was compared to:

If you stepped into a room today and declared that Damian Lillard was the best floor general on the planet, you certainly wouldn’t appear to have said something out of the ordinary. With years of hard behind him and good health at his side, Portland’s five-time All-Star might be the frontrunner in the NBA’s best point guard debate. It might not come to you as a surprise that it took the rest of the world some time to come to the conclusion that this would be the case someday.

With a chip seemingly always at shoulder-length, Lillard strikes me as the type that might have stapled his Draft weaknesses to the wall, and attacked them voraciously. Consider this “weaknesses” section from 2012, and see how many of these stand today:

"“Not a true point guard…  Looks for his own shot first, which is expected for a player with his talent in the Big Sky, but will leave scouts questioning whether he’ll be able to make his teammates better at the next level… Has improved his decision-making over the last few years, but can get carried away and take questionable shots when he gets hot… Has been dominating all season, but hasn’t faced very strong competition… Missed an entire season before his junior year, so some thought has to be made about injury concerns.” – NBADraft.net"

Reasonable concerns, sure. But credit Lillard for making some of these laughable in 2020.

“… Scouts questioning whether he’ll be able to make his teammates better at the next level.” He ranks No. 6 in assists (7.8), No. 10 in secondary assists, No. 8 in potential assists, and No. 6 in points created. Not bad for a shoot-first.

“Hasn’t faced strong competition.” Well, this didn’t matter as much as we may have assumed. The last time Lillard missed the Playoffs, Roy Hibbert was an All-Star. So, a couple years or a generation back.

“Some thought has to be made about injury concerns.” Guess who leads the NBA in games played since 2012-13? And yes, it’s easy to pick apart this in hindsight. Both Jerryd Bayless and Eric Maynor deserve the utmost credit for reaching the pinnacles of their professions, and surviving a while.

Lillard actually discussed a bit of this in detail during Bleacher Report’s Take It There with Taylor Rooks, offering this thought:

"“After the camp was over, they did all the evaluations, and they was like… ‘not a good jump shooter off the dribble…’ it was the stuff that I really disagreed with it.’ I never told nobody I felt that way.”"

Today, one might say he’s on the Mount Rushmore of off-the-dribble marksmen. Funny enough, he ranks No. 4 in the league in off-the-dribble pull-ups. There’s certainly a wood-to-the-fire dynamic in play, here. And maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing for everyone involved, especially the Portland Trail Blazers.