Damian Lillard And Nate McMillan Revisited

Last week in writing about the NBA's summer coaching carousel, I included a line about how the Portland Trail Blazers replaced Nate McMillan, who I feel would have been an excellent fit with Damian Lillard, for Terry Stotts. Readers over at Blazer's Edge expressed astonishment at that theory, given Portland's lack of recent point-guard success. So, let me explain.

McMillan certainly did not develop the young point guards Portland has recently hosted, from Sergio Rodriguez to Jerryd Bayless to Patty Mills. He didn't trust them. He trusted steady Steve Blake and Old Man Andre Miller. But there was a young ball-dominant player that Mac did trust: Brandon Roy, the 2007 Rookie of the Year and, of all the players mentioned in this paragraph, the closest comp to Lillard.

With Roy, who was relatively sure-handed, incredibly smart in reading the defense and had a jumper all along, McMillan loosened the reins. He trusted Roy in a way he never ever ever came close to trusting Spanish Chocolate, Bayless or Mills. McMillan famously kept his offense down-tempo, and Roy fit that. The truer point guards didn't -- Rodriguez and Mills are blurs whose advantages are their speed, and Bayless lived in the mold of Gilbert Arenas, who thrived when his conscience was restricted. A player like Roy could hardly turn off his conscience -- thoughtful play was an innate part of his game, not a necessary accessory.

We know little about how Lillard will play in the NBA, but it would appear he has a lot of Roy in his game. He's more of an aggressive scorer, but he's a sane scorer, not someone who will take inordinate risks for the big play. His jumper is butter (like Roy's), and he'll be able to use that to keep defenders off balance. I think he'll be efficient starting early in his career. He may have some bad turnovers as he gets accustomed to, you know, having excellent teammates (something that he lacked at Weber State). But he seems to be a much more sober, trustworthy lead guard than Rodriguez, Bayless and Mills (three players I love to watch).

That's where my disappointment at not getting to see McMillan coach Lillard comes from: I don't doubt that Mac had a strong impact on young Roy, and I'm perfectly unclear on how Stotts will develop Dame. Of course, the McMillan dismissal came long before the Blazers landed Lillard, so it's all spilled milk. But hopefully, this explains where I was coming from with that comment.

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