Cheap seats: Raptors should look to draft a PG (Lillard)
Old 06-20-2012, 06:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Raptors Cheap seats: Raptors should look to draft a PG (Lillard)

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In the first ever draft that the Toronto Raptors participated in they drafted Arizona point guard Damon Stoudamire, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.

They haven’t drafted a point guard in the first round since.

That isn’t to say that they have been bereft at the position. Alvin Williams, T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon have all had noteworthy moments in Toronto Raptors history, and the team has made the post-season with each one at the helm. However, none have lived up to the standard of The First Raptor, a guy who averaged 19.0 ppg and 9.3 apg and played as electric as any player in a Raptors uniform not named named Vince Carter. Very few Raptors fans remember Stoudamire, mostly because there were very few Raptors fans back then, but he brought the kind of exciting, dynamic play to the position that has basically become de rigueur in today’s NBA.

The Raptors have had opportunities to draft point guards, but for the most part the team either felt secure at the position or felt that they had a greater need elsewhere on the roster. Plus, most of the league’s elite point guards were drafted ahead of any pick that the Raptors had, and guys like Rajon Rondo and Ty Lawson have outperformed their pre-draft expectations.

This year, though, the Raptors look perfectly positioned to take the best point guard in the 2012 rookie class, and fans, blogs and pundits are becoming increasingly enamored with the idea that the Raptors should snatch him up. The point guard in question is Weber State’s Damian Lillard.

Lillard has been this season’s biggest riser on draft boards. He was a bubble first rounder only a few months ago, mostly due to his lack of exposure playing in a relative backwater like Weber State, but his dominating NCAA production got him noticed and now there is little chance he falls out of the top ten on draft night. In fact, he’s risen so high that there is an outside chance that by the time the Raptors pick at eight he’ll be off the board to Sacramento or Portland.

If he’s available to Toronto, though, they would be wise to seriously consider snatching him up. He’s a terrific fit both with regards to what the team wants to do and with where the team’s biggest needs are. He can create his own shot off of the dribble, he’s great at breaking down defenses, he can shoot the three both off of the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. He’s also a tremendously efficient player, finishing second in the entire NCAA in PER last year with a stunning 33.8 rating. He’s got a great body for defense, too, at 6-foot-3, and his measurements at the pre-draft combine put him in the physical spectrum of Chicago’s Derrick Rose. He killed it in drills in front of the league’s power players at the combine and he’s been wowing at every stop on his workout tour. At this point the only knock against him seems to be that he played for a small school, but given the way he’s impressing everyone he comes into contact with in anticipation of the draft it’s hard to see that mattering much on June 28th.

Perhaps the bigger question for Toronto’s brass isn’t whether or not Lillard is worth drafting at eight, it’s whether or not he’s good enough to hold off on trading the pick to draft him. For months there has been speculation that Toronto is willing to move their pick if it brought a veteran small forward in return like Andre Iguodala or Rudy Gay. However, Iguodala’s strong showing in the Playoffs, along with Memphis’s recent prospective sale, makes it difficult for the Raptors to have a realistic shot at acquiring either player before draft night. In fact, one could make a case that the Raptors would be better off drafting Lillard and going for a second-tier veteran small forward in a trade (Tayshaun Prince, for example) or through free agency (like Brooklyn’s Gerald Wallace). There is anecdotal evidence to support this viewpoint, too, even if not exactly hard science.

Take a look at this list: Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley, Derrick Rose, Ricky Rubio, John Wall, Kyrie Irving. That is the list of the first point guards taken in the first round of each draft since 2005. There is not a miss on that list, with only Conley representing sub-All-Star level of talent. Does that mean that Lillard is destined to join that group? Well, yes and no. Yes in that he’ll be the first point guard off of the board at the end of the month no matter who selects him, but that alone does not guarantee that he’ll join such elite company in terms of NBA production. While Lillard is physically and athletically at the level of those aforementioned players, you never want to assume that any player can reach such a high stratosphere without having seen him play in a single NBA game. That said, the league’s rules regarding perimeter hand-checking are a boon for players like Lillard, and his shooting prowess fits right into a league that increasingly emphasizes the value of the three-point shot. He may not be guaranteed to reach the highest heights, but you have to like the track records for the first point guards taken over the last seven years.

The fact is, though, that there are so many balls up in the air for the Raptors right now that no one outside of the organization really knows what direction they are going in with the holes on their roster. They have cap space, tradeable assets and multiple picks in this draft and each can be used to shore up various problem areas on the roster. While Lillard is one way the team could go at the point guard position, so is signing free agent Steve Nash, or trading for Kyle Lowry, or just keeping Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless. The team may feel Lillard is too good to pass up and draft him accordingly, or they may feel that they can get away with going in another direction for any one of a number of reasons. When a team has so many direction it can go in one offseason it can be very hard to handicap what path they are looking down.

All that said, the Raptors have a good history of taking point guards in the first round, since the one time they’ve done it they landed the Rookie of the Year. Bryan Colangelo has also only once taken a point guard in the first round, and his name was Steve Nash. Lillard may well be off of the board by eight, and the Raptors may not be picking there by draft night, but if the two find themselves staring at each other on June 28th it would make a world of sense for them to come together, especially given Toronto’s and Colangelo’s history drafting that position in the first round.
Toronto Raptors have only taken one point guard in the first round, it might be time to take their second - Sports Blog | Top Sports Blog | Best Sports News ? Sympatico Sports - The Cheap Seats
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Interesting.... I've never heard of this kid (but I haven't been paying much attention to the draft TBH).

Anyone seen him play?

EDIT: Found a highlight clip of him.


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Old 06-20-2012, 08:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Lillard looks really good.

He's athletic, got great size and can shoot the ball extremely well.

He still needs to prove himself as a floor general, and on defense. He had a weak supporting cast in college, so he's a bit of an unknown as a floor general.

He'd be a good fit here because he could take Bayless' role of back up point guard and scoring guard off the bench.

If he develops defensively, and his playmaking is up to NBA standards, he could be a solid starter as a PG. If those things don't happen he's destined to be a combo guard off the bench.

My take on Lillard as a PG is that he takes really good care of the ball, so even if he isn't great at setting guys up and racking up assists, he should still be able to initiate the offense. His ability as a shooter in catch and shoot situations will force the D to cover him tight all game, and provide lots of spacing in the offense. He might not be a true point guard, but I think that because he is a low turnover guard with a great shot and really nice handle he should be fine at that position.

His ideal fit would be with a team that has some playmaking at another position. The Raptors don't, but they should probably be looking. I'm not a fan of teams that run the offense through one guy only. If there's a deal for Tyreke in place, I'd say that Lillard would be a perfect fit next to him.


Last edited by EggsToTheBBQ; 06-20-2012 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 06-20-2012, 08:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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So he isn't much of a passer, is a score first PG, might have some issues with decision making, people say he is a combo guard, sounds a lot like someone on the raps (who many people dislike because of his inefficiencies as a bench player (however he does ok as a starter))
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:06 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by LET'S GO RAPTORS!!!!! View Post
So he isn't much of a passer, is a score first PG, might have some issues with decision making, people say he is a combo guard, sounds a lot like someone on the raps (who many people dislike because of his inefficiencies as a bench player (however he does ok as a starter))
Lillard is a much better shooter than Bayless was coming out of college.

Also, he's much better off the ball in the offense. I don't think that Lillard will have trouble adjusting to playing SG in small line ups.

He's definitely not a traditional point guard, but he has strengths that are hard to ignore. I can see how he could put it all together and get the most out of his talent, and that's as a point guard that initiates the offense then gets himself free as a shooter.
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:21 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by EggsToTheBBQ View Post
Lillard is a much better shooter than Bayless was coming out of college.

Also, he's much better off the ball in the offense. I don't think that Lillard will have trouble adjusting to playing SG in small line ups.

He's definitely not a traditional point guard, but he has strengths that are hard to ignore. I can see how he could put it all together and get the most out of his talent, and that's as a point guard that initiates the offense then gets himself free as a shooter.
however. if, let's say hypothetically, you keep JB. you don't have to use the asset that is the 8th pick on a player similar to someone on your roster. you can then use that said asset to get AI. However, all this talk of Lillard is moot if Portland are indeed high on him (I think Portland might flip a coin to see who they'll draft (Drummond vs Lillard) - but they could easily get Lillard and then draft Zeller)
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