NBA prospects make their pointsRaptors get a pre-draft look at hotshot guards
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
TORONTO - If the Raptors are intent on keeping and using their eighth overall pick at the June 28 NBA draft — and that remains a question — they could do far worse than either of the two point guards who graced the ACC practice gym yesterday.
North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall and Weber State’s Damian Lillard both made appearances, Marshall in the morning with a group that also included likely mid first-round forward Terrence Ross of Washington and Lillard in the early afternoon, by himself.
Among point guards in this power forward-deep draft, Marshall and Lillard are the two expected to go highest — anywhere from No. 6 to No.15 in the first round depending on which mock board you frequent.
Both men come as advertised: Mature beyond their years and willing and able to fill whatever role a team asks of them.
Lillard comes in with a the reputation of proven scorer. At Weber State he had little choice but to carry the offensive load and finished the year second in the country in scoring.
Marshall’s situation, like Lillard’s, was determined by his surroundings but with at least three or four teammates considered lottery potential, his job wasn’t to score but to distribute, leaving some question about his own scoring ability.
Both players arrived in Toronto trying to show the Raptors they were capable to doing what they other one had done so successfully — Marshall knocking down the consistent jumper and Lillard showing them he was a competent distributor, not to mention a capable defender.
“Being able to play with other guys who are going to be picked in the lottery is a good thing, especially for a guy that is pass-first like him,” Lillard said of Marshall. “I think an advantage for me coming from Weber State and having a lot of offensive responsibilities is going to help me because I am going to have NBA level players around me and I think people will see that I am a lot better passer and player and I think people will see that I can really defend without having a lot of responsibilities offensively.”
While Lillard couldn’t show his defensive skills in Toronto, GM Bryan Colangelo and assistant GM Ed Stefanski did get to see him do so in Chicago where he did take part in drills against other players.
He also felt it was an opportunity to dispel the myth that a player from a smaller college can’t compete with the players from the bigger-name schools.
“Every guy there was from a high major except for myself and I competed,” Lillard said matter of factly. “We did one-on-one’s and I scored every time. I think I only got scored on one time so I showed my athleticism, my ability to defend and my ability to score like teams already knew I could.”
Marshall not only has to prove to teams he can score with consistency but also that he’s healthy after fracturing a bone in his right hand during the tournament. It was only three weeks ago that doctors also discovered he had fractured his elbow on the same play.
“It was a late development,” Marshall said of the elbow. “I wished I could have started my rehab a little earlier but thankfully it was nothing that needed surgery so it’s just a matter of time.”
He admitted there is still some pain and discomfort when he’s dribbling with his right hand or receiving passes but he soldiered through it Tuesday and is confident time will take care of any discomfort he’s now feeling.
As for any questions about his ability to shoot the ball with consistency, he said that’s really just a product of his surroundings at North Carolina.
“The role on my team wasn’t to score,” Marshall said. “I was blessed with a lot of scorers that did a great job at that but now I want to show that I am not a liability when it comes to that area.”
Marshall probably hit the nail when he was asked to describe the competition between himself and Lillard.
“People say we are the two best point guards in the draft but we’re not exactly the same,” he said. “So I think it comes down to a matter of need and what is the best fit.”
AGENTS OF MISFORTUNE
Teams hate it, but they really don’t have much choice in the matter.
Every year, agents seem to get in the way of what a team wants to do with its workouts and this year is no different.
Damian Lillard was ready and even willing to work out against Kendall Marshall on Tuesday, but on the advice of his agent, he didn’t.
Instead, he conducted his workout solo about an hour or so after Marshall and Washington’s Terrence Ross and Pickering native Devoe Joseph joined three others in a group workout which would have been ever so helpful to the Raptors had it included Lillard.
Lillard is represented by Aaron Goodwin, the same agent that oversees DeMar DeRozan’s career and like DeRozan, Goodwin has insisted that his new client conduct pre-draft workouts as a class of one.
On the one hand, you can’t blame him. As the top point guard in the class, Lillard can only lose if he goes up against another point guard and doesn’t come out on top. If he does grade out higher, he was supposed to, so there’s no gain.
But having agents dictate how workouts are conducted has to grate on teams.
As far as Lillard is concerned, Goodwin’s track record is solid enough that he’ll go with what has worked in the past. Lillard admitted though that were it left to him he would just as soon workout against others.
Raps assistant GM Ed Stefanski said there was very little the team could take from Lillard’s on-court workout Tuesday that it didn’t already know but his just being in town allowed Bryan Colangelo and his front office a little more one-on-one time with the young man, which is always a good thing in terms of a making a decision of this magnitude.