Who can he be?
As a scoring point guard, the former Weber State product will enter the league with questions surrounding his transition to the next level. But if his talent is any indication, the Portland Trail Blazers have a star on their hands.
Everybody wants to compare prospects to current NBA players. While it may be unfair to cast a rookie in another man’s shadow, it’s never too early to think about what he could be heading deep into the future.
Like all NBA newcomers, Lillard’s future has everything to do with whether or not he reaches his ceiling.
If he does, the league better be ready.
If he doesn’t, the Trail Blazers better be ready for a long road ahead.
Best-Case Scenario: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is regarded in many circles as the best point guard in the entire NBA.
In the eyes of Blazers fans, he is the perfect Lillard comparison.
The two players thrive off their athleticism. Lillard has a better jump shot at this point in his career, but he has compared athletically to Rose since his name began surfacing as a top pick in the 2012 draft.
Rose is arguably the league’s best scoring point guard, but he is also a great facilitator, which is the same deadly combination fans in Portland are hoping for from Lillard.
To some people, a best-case scenario might be Russell Westbrook, as he’s taken the league by storm on a tough Oklahoma City Thunder squad.
Westbrook is a great, young point guard, but his decision-making skills have been questioned for good reason in the past, and Lillard has spoken time and time again about getting his teammates involved.
Rose is the ideal fit for Lillard, but he must continue to elevate his game if he’s ever going to reach such a high comparison.
Worst-Case Scenario : Jerryd Bayless
Yes, it’s true, there are far worse point guard comparisons than former Trail Blazer Jerryd Bayless.
That being said, his time in Portland was filled with promise, potential and very little production.
Bayless is the score-first point guard who never panned out early in his career. His willingness to attack the basket was great at first, but his inability to finish at the rim should have prompted him to look for his teammates or change his approach.
Not unlike Lillard today, Bayless was supposed to be the point guard of the future. His talent was high, but his results were far from what fans wanted to see.
The truth is, Lillard has already done wonders for proving fans wrong who think he’ll fizzle out the same way Bayless did a few seasons back.
Lillard has shown throughout his time at Weber State, and in the in Las Vegas Summer League, that he is very capable of running an offense, and if his athleticism fails him at the NBA level, he has a deadly jump shot that Bayless has only just begun to show heading into his fifth season.
While there are a number of comparisons between the two prospects, fans shouldn’t worry about Lillard the saw way they did about Bayless.
Realistic Prediction: Ty Lawson
To a lot of fans, a realistic prediction for Lillard is Rose or Westbrook—and they might not be wrong.
The potential for greatness is there, but until we’ve seen it on the court, a much safer comparison is the Denver Nuggets’ Ty Lawson.
Lawson is forming into an All-Star. He’s one of the fastest point guards in the league, his shooting ability is dangerous beyond the arch and his scoring-passing combination is ideal for a point guard carrying the load.
Lillard doesn’t have the speed of Lawson, but he certainly has the athleticism to make plays in the open court.
Lawson came off the bench for most of his first two seasons, but when he finally cracked the starting lineup in every game last year, he averaged 16.4 points, 6.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
Lillard has a chance to post that kind of production as a starter right away, and his rookie season could prove to be a special one if he lives up to the hype of being the sixth overall pick.