The Portland Trail Blazers are in the midst of retooling their roster and got some valuable players during the 2012 NBA Draft on Thursday night in Newark, New Jersey. With the 6th and 11th pick, both in the first round, the Blazers have had a lot of good quality players to look at that could make an impact immediately. The two major areas of concern for the Blazers are the center and point guard positions and with their selection picked Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.
Luckily for the Blazers, the 2012 NBA Draft class is stacked with young, talented players that haven’t been this deep in years. Some are automatically franchise changers, and others will have to take time to develop and will be used to complement current players. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time for Portland to get to work and shape these young guys into powerhouse NBA players. Here’s what we can expect from Lillard and Leonard for the 2012-13 NBA season.
Damian Lillard (PG/G) – Weber State
The likely sixth pick by many up till the draft, Portland used their pick courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets to snatch Weber State guard Damian Lillard. The six-three, 190 lb freshman is already being compared similar to Lou Williams and is a pretty nice shooter, someone Portland really needs.
Lillard wasn’t thought highly up until when Portland was on the clock but the team fell in love with his ability to not only create his own shot, but is able to score from anywhere on the outside to cutting inside the basket. Playing for the small Weber State school, Lillard was second-leading scorer in the nation with 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals playing 34.5 minutes while shooting 46% from the field.
He possess quick feet and has great athleticism, something in a point guard that we haven’t seen for a while as well as utilize the pick and roll to get himself open. Lillard’s shooting percentage is pretty decent both from field goal percentage as well as from the three-point, 40.9% from downtown and can drop bombs. The problem with Lillard is his ability to read the open floor and make the pass, scouts saying “not that great of a passer and distributor, accuracy decent at best.”
With the chances to pick other highly skilled point guards like Austin Rivers and Kendall Marshall, Lillard wasn’t picked to go this high and was mainly thought as a mid-rounder. His basketball I.Q. is good enough for the NBA level, but he is your typical “combo guard” who wants to shoot first rather than pass.
However, Lillard promises consistent scoring and has plenty of room for development with the Trail Blazers, if he manages to take the starting position from Raymond Felton has yet to be seen.
Meyers Leonard (C) – Illinois
The big man from Illinois, Leonard has what you need from a center with a bright future, a large build and extreme athleticism and has very high potential to be a major force.
Coming to Portland at seven-one and weighing at 250 lbs, Leonard reminds me of a skinner David Lee. Averaging 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and shooting 58% from the field, mainly from inside the paint but has the jump shot when he needs to while spending two years with Illinois.
Leonard according to scouts has a tremendous length with a 7’3″ wingspan with comes very handy in shot blocking in which is excels at. His athleticism is something to watch for as he is very quick with his feet, great rebounder and has a good eye for getting the ball for the offensive rebound.
The problem with Leonard that even though he is seven-one, he is very skinny for his position and might get bullied inside the paint. Because of his lack of muscle, other bigger players beat him in post moves, he’ll look tiny compared to other centers like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
Like all the rookies, Leonard will need plenty of time to work out the kinks in his game, will most likely come off the bench if Portland can land a big name in free agency to fill in the center spot.