There was speculation that the Blazers might use both picks to select guards, but new general manager Neil Olshey made a couple of good choices with the team's two lottery picks, opting to snag rotation-ready players at positions where the team needs immediate help.
Lillard, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Weber State, is expected to step right into a major role for the Blazers, replacing Raymond Felton as the team's floor general.
"Damian Lillard was brought here to be our starting point guard," Olshey told reporters on Thursday. "He might not be that in camp, but we selected him to be the starting point guard."
Leonard is a 7-footer out of Illinois who is athletic and defensive-minded. I like this selection, with the Blazers snagging up one of the few true centers in this draft. And even if Leonard isn't an immediate starter, he can step into the rotation right away, and the Blazers still have some cap space to spend this summer, so they could acquire a starting center behind whom Leonard could develop a bit.
Many analysts called Lillard the top point guard in the draft, which bodes well for a Portland team that was in desperate need of a point guard. The knock on him has been that he played for Weber State and in the Big Sky Conference, but I don't think the lack of big-time competition will have hurt this guy. Even at a smaller-market school, averages of 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a junior are nothing to scoff at.
Only time will tell just how well the Blazers really did with their two first-round picks this year, but in the immediate aftermath, I think they made a couple of great choices.
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Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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