’s having a great rookie season and it’s only a third of the way done. He’s been named NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month, hit a game winning shot, and helped lead the Blazers to a .500 record—much better than anyone anticipated at this point in the season. But Damian’s effect on the NBA is being felt far beyond his play on the court.He has brought attention back to mid-level basketball players.
Case in point is the upcoming match up between North Texas University and Lehigh
, two mid-level division schools that feature two projected lottery picks in the up-coming draft, Tony Mitchell of North Texas (last years Sun Belt Freshman of the Year,) and CJ McCollom of Lehigh (the leading scorer in the nation at 24.9 ppg.) There was a time when leading the nation in scoring from a mid-level school like Lehigh would’ve been dismissed as a lack of competition, but now, with the success of Lillard, these players are garnering some serious looks because the one thing scouts are figuring out is scorers score, no matter what. If they have the size to withstand the grind they will put the ball in the basket. Rebounders rebound, so long as they are given a chance.
This isn’t the first time a phenomenon like this has taken over the NBA. In the years following the 1987 NBA draft, NBA scouts scoured the NAIA ranks looking for the next Scottie Pippen. It was this phenomenon that allowed yours truly a chance and when I got a chance to team up with Scottie as an NBA player I thanked him for re-opening the door for us NAIA players, as the newest group of small college players should take the time to thank Damian Lillard for giving them the chance to be seen.
It will be interesting to see what happens in this years draft, but there is no doubt in my mind that both of these guys will get a much tougher look because of what guys like Damian Lillard and Kenneth Faried are doing at the NBA level.