A short time ago, Damian Lillard's ceiling might have been "NBA player," if not, "Euroleague rotation guy." Weber State is not known for grooming stars (quick, try and guess where the college is located), but the Ogden, Utah, school may have graduated one in Lillard.
This is Lillard's ceiling, but a "ceiling" is different from "likelihood." Lillard is a rare mix of good and bad draft indicators, a rebuke to the notion that you know what you're getting in a four-year college guy.
His senior numbers were fantastic, especially in pick-and-roll situations. The competition was meager, though, so it is difficult to know what to make of that success.
Lillard's meteoric draft-stock rise gives me some pause. Had Lillard left school after his third year, I'm not sure teams would have leaped at the chance to get a 17.7-point-per-game, .438 percent field-goal scorer.
It's hard not to attribute some of Lillard's rise from the fantastic marketing job his representatives pulled off. Lillard's draft journey was turned into a compelling web series, "License to Lillard." This allowed him to showcase some of his best qualities.
He's engaging, intelligent and charismatic. It is hard to watch this without feeling like he'll overcome any obstacles, be they towering shot-blockers or the Portland Trail Blazers medical staff.
And he might just be that guy. Lillard demonstrated in Summer League that he possesses NBA skills. Summer League can be among nature's most deceptive mirages, but at least we know the kid can hack it there. As goes the Vegas cliche, "Summer League can't tell you who can play, but it can tell you who can't." This guy was a long way from looking like a washout.
I suspect that Lillard will be a good NBA player, but something short of a star. I'm thinking that Lillard and Jeff Teague share a similar ceiling, with the latter being more athletic and the former being more skilled.
The NBA's pick-and-roll focus should work in Lillard's favor, as should his intelligence and work ethic. Did Portland find its next franchise guy? Probably not, but it just may have wrangled a decent point guard.
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