Lillard lit up the Big Sky, but is he ready for the Big Time?

With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28th, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft with the #13th pick.

With a roster consisting of more questions than answers and nobody who qualifies as untouchable, the Suns may be in a position where they choose to draft the best player on the board regardless of position. The subject of the following review may just be that player if he is available when the Suns are on the clock.

Our own 7footer already gave a scintillating review of point guard Kendall Marshall, but there is another floor general in this year's draft slated as a lottery selection. Is he the heir apparent to the throne?

NBA draft coverage continues with a look at Damian Lillard from the Weber State Wildcats.

Damian Lillard is a 6'2" 185 lb. point guard who has been rising up mock drafts as the big day on June 28th approaches. He is a score first point guard (finished second in the nation in scoring) that can attack the basket and score with either hand or bomb from long distance (40.9% 2011-12 3 pt FG%). He even shot 89% from the line on 8 attempts per game last season.

Lillard has a solid frame, good wingspan, and impressive quickness and athleticism - all things that should put him in a position to compete with NBA point guards and succeed at the next level.

Although his overall resume is dazzling, it is not without holes. In the case of Lillard, the list of questions isn't very long, but they are questions of serious magnitude.

Bounce with me to learn more about the other Wildcat (give yourself a hand if you knew a) their nickname and b) that Weber St. University is located in Ogden, Utah) and decide whether he's the best point guard in this year's draft.

Here are Lillard's per game and advanced college statistics:

2008-09 31 3.8 8.8 .434 1.6 4.2 .374 2.2 2.6 .841 3.9 2.9 1.1 0.2 2.3 11.5
2009-10 31 34.3 6.0 13.8 .431 2.7 6.9 .393 5.3 6.2 .853 4.0 3.6 1.1 0.1 2.4 1.9 19.9
2010-11 10 28.5 4.9 11.2 .438 1.9 5.5 .345 6.0 7.0 .857 3.8 3.3 1.4 0.2 2.8 2.3 17.7
2011-12 32 34.5 7.2 15.5 .467 2.9 7.2 .409 7.1 8.0 .887 5.0 4.0 1.5 0.2 2.3 1.9 24.5
Career 104 33.6 5.6 12.6 .446 2.4 6.1 .390 5.0 5.8 .867 4.3 3.5 1.2 0.2 2.4 1.4 18.6
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2012.

2008-09 31 .569 .524 18.3 2.0 0.6 2.6
2009-10 31 1062 24.8 .594 .529 1.2 12.8 6.9 23.3 1.9 0.4 12.5 28.0 121.2 105.1 3.8 1.1 4.9
2010-11 10 285 28.1 .609 .522 2.7 13.2 8.1 27.3 3.0 0.8 16.2 32.5 116.6 100.8 1.3 0.3 1.6
2011-12 32 1105 34.0 .635 .562 1.9 14.8 8.7 27.1 2.5 0.7 10.7 33.0 128.4 101.2 5.9 1.5 7.3
Career 104 2452 29.3 .606 .540 1.7 13.7 7.8 25.5 2.3 0.6 13.4 30.8 124.1 102.9 12.9 3.5 16.4
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2012.

Lillard's PER was second in the nation to some guy from Kentucky named Anthony Davis. More advanced statistics are available for your perusal here.

As always is the case for players from mid major schools, there are concerns stemming from the daunting level of competition Lillard has faced in the fearsome Big Sky Conference. While this skepticism may be well founded, there have been plenty of players who have come from small schools and went on to do big things.

Steve Nash (Santa Clara), John Stockton (Gonzaga), Tiny Archibald (UTEP), and Bob Cousy (Holy Cross) are point guards that still managed to go on to moderately successful NBA careers despite lack of pedigree.

Bill Russell (San Francisco), Larry Bird (Indiana St.), Julius Erving (UMass), David Robinson (Navy), Karl Malone (Louisiana Tech), and George Gervin (Eastern Michigan) highlight a star-studded cast of players that came from humble beginnings (honorable mention to two former Suns - Dan Majerle (Central Michigan) and Danny Ainge (BYU)).

Scrutinizing the list of NBA players from mid major schools, two names resonated with me - Tim Hardaway (UTEP) and Stephen Curry (Davidson). Neither is a perfect comparison. Hardaway went on to become a prolific scorer AND distributor at the NBA level. Curry faced much more adversity at the college level, as his numbers were sometimes achieved against double and triple teams and by opponents using ball denial strategies. Lillard is more athletic than Curry, but the sharpshooting, score first point guard dynamic follows an approximate parallel.

Let's look at their final years in school next to one another for comparison:


2011-12 32 34.5 7.2 15.5 .467 2.9 7.2 .409 7.1 8.0 .887 5.0 4.0 1.5 0.2 2.3 1.9 24.5


2008-09 34 9.2 20.2 .454 3.8 9.9 .387 6.5 7.4 .876 4.4 5.6 2.5 0.2 3.7 28.6
1988-89 33 35.8 7.7 15.4 .501 1.5 4.0 .366 5.1 6.9 .741 4.0 5.4 2.8 0.2 2.7 2.4 22.0

Provided by

In advanced statistics, Lillard compares favorably in eFG% .562 (Curry .549, Hardaway .548) and turnover% 10.5 (Curry 13.5, Hardaway - info not available). In fact, Lillard's .12 turnovers per possession is best among all NCAA point guards.

The area where Lillard lags behind in this comparison is in the assists column. That is the second area of uncertainty with Lillard - playmaking/distributing. Lillard propitiates this doubt to a certain extent through his demonstrated ability to effectively run the pick and roll (an NBA staple) as the ball handler.

There are plenty of examples of score first point guards in the NBA (listed with career apg) such as Russell Westbrook (6.8), Tony Parker (5.9), Monta Ellis (4.5), and Stephen Curry (5.8). It actually appears that the pass first point guard (e.g. Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo) who can average 10 assists per game is more exotic. Although each of these players has his own unique attributes (e.g. Westbrook's freakish athleticism), I can see Lillard's ceiling being in the general vicinity of these players, which would be an absolute windfall for a 13th pick.

There's a good possibility that Lillard won't be available when the Suns select at 13. The teams drafting 8-11 don't have franchise point guards in place. The Hornets and Blazers have two picks each, and point guard is an area of need for both teams. Here's a melange of where the pundits have Lillard projected (links included):

Draft Express - 10 (Hornets) - 6 (Trailblazers)

ESPN - 7 (Chad Ford's Big Board)

Hoopshype - 6 (Trailblazers)

Mynbadraft - 8 (Raptors)

Hoopsworld - 6 (Trailblazers)

I think that's enough of a sample size to suggest that Lillard very well may not be available when the Suns draft at 13. Several outlets seem to be of the opinion that the Blazers may take Lillard at #6 because they are concerned he won't be available by the time they make their second selection at #11. It's possible that he could fall, though, or maybe the Suns will wheel and deal their way up a few spots...

Let's review:




Ball Handling/Ball Control (low turnovers)

NBA size/body


Ability to Execute the Pick and Roll



Competition Level

Here's a highlight reel that reinforces the above lists - spoiler alert: don't expect to witness many mesmerizing passes...

So what do you think Brightsiders? Is Lillard destined to be a star, a bust, or somewhere in between? Should he be the first point guard taken or do you prefer Kendall Marshall? Vote in the poll and leave your comments below.

Who is the best point guard in the draft and what should the Suns do?

  114 votes | Results

The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to win both home games and tied their WCF series with the San Antonio Spurs, 2-2. Now it's time to find out of the Boston Celtics can do the same against the Miami Heat.

Game is on ESPN starting at 5:30 p.m.

The man likes contact, at least.

There continue to be rumors purported by Cleveland writers of the Phoenix Suns' interest in 24 year old restricted free agent, 6'6" small forward Alonzo Gee. Even the money is consistent - 4 yrs for $16 million.

Of course, these rumors hint of a single shadowy source, and is certainly part of some context that hasn't been shared along with the numbers. Why would the Suns want to add another long-term middling contract for a middling player when they've already got 6 of them? I am thinking there is a context to the Suns' interest, like "if the Suns need a wing for backup/spot-starting minutes late in July and have fewer middling contracts at that point than they do right now". But that's just a guess on my part.

As for Gee, he brings a little different skillset than the Suns' current players offer. But while he's a solid NBA rotation player, he's not as good overall as Grant Hill or Jared Dudley and only marginally better than unrestricted Suns free agent Shannon Brown.

But at least he's different. Gee is athletic, plays "above the rim" and draws shooting fouls at a very high rate, but he is not an efficient offensive player. On defense, he played the Grant Hill role for the Cavs, taking on the opponent's best perimeter offensive player each night.

Gee makes only 32% of his three-pointers, has little to no midrange game and gets his shot blocked more than just about any NBA wing player on drives to the rim. In 2010-11, Gee led all NBA swingmen by getting 13.3% of his shots blocked, though this past season he dropped that down to only 10.3% (4th among swingmen). League average of swingmen shots blocked was 5.1% this past season.

On the flipside, he draws a LOT of shooting fouls ("and-1s") at 4.7% of his shots (league average: 2.2%), putting him third in the league amongst swingmen and ahead of such contact-drawing luminaries as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Corey Maggette.

So, the guy likes contact. A lot. And the Suns were noticeably missing that dimension last season.

He also plays pretty good defense. With the woeful Cavs, he takes on the opponent's best offensive wing (like Grant Hill does for the Suns), but his defensive results are nothing to write home about (like Grant Hill's with the Suns. The Cavs team defense last year was worse than the Suns' even - especially after Andersen Varejao went down again, so there's really no way to know how good Gee is on defense.

Among NBA swingmen, Gee rates above average in rebound rate (10.0 vs. league avg. 7.9) and total steals/blocks/charges (1.65 vs. 1.27)

His coaches, teammates and fans love him. Just check out the number of articles written on this one player since the end of the season.

Gee, on why he doesn't celebrate his dunks ...

"Because my (defensive) assignment is hard. Every game I have to guard the best player, so I ain't got time to waste any energy jumping up and down. I just try to keep it cool."

Cavs forward Alonzo Gee might draw some serious interest this summer in free agency. The Suns could make a lucrative offer to Gee. One source said they could offer Gee a four-year, $16 million offer and hope that the Cavs don't match it.
Again I feel the need to qualify my impression of the Suns' interest in Gee. As long as Childress, Dudley and Hill are on the team, Gee is really not needed.

But if Hill goes somewhere else in free agency and/or Childress is amnestied and/or Dudley is traded in a package for players/picks, then Alonzo Gee would be a very solid signing for the Suns.

Here's a little video his game highlights.

Deron Williams peek-a-boo!

The New York media, which it should be noted is notoriously horrible when it comes to spreading unfounded NBA trade and free agent rumors, says the Phoenix Suns will make a big push to get Deron Williams should Steve Nash slip through their fingers. It's just the kind of rumor that has "ulterior motive" written all over it.

Here's the rumor:

If Steve Nash bolts, Phoenix Suns may make a push for Deron Williams - NY Daily News
"If they lose Steve, then they plan to go after Deron, hard," said a person with knowledge of the Suns’ plans. "They know he loves golf and they’re going to try to sell him on going out there."

The first thing you have to do when you see rumors like this is ask: Who benefits from this information being leaked?

These things usually aren't out there for no reason, unless they are barely more than idle gossip. It's either a team or an agent advancing an agenda or some speculation coming from a source that somehow gets turned into a published story.

In this case, let's assume it's the former and play a game. Who benefits most from this information getting published?

Best answer wins two free Internet Rumor Gift Certificates!

Do you buy it? Are the Suns really going to go after Deron Williams?

  454 votes | Results

Can the Spurs bounce back and take a 3-1 lead in the series over the Thunder? I'd put money on that.

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