Damian Lillard’s Pre-Draft Workout With The Warriors & Kings (Who Ended Up Passing On Him In The Draft)
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On June 13th of 2012, Weber State’s Damian Lillard attended a pre-draft workout with the Sacramento Kings. 15 days later, David Stern announced with the 5th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Thomas Robinson from the University of Kansas. The Portland Trailblazers gladly used their 6th pick on Damian Lillard, who went on to win Rookie Of The Year, make three NBA All-Star teams and was named All-NBA 1st team last season.
As for Robinson, he averaged a little less than five points a game until he was traded 51 games into his rookie season. The trade with the Houston Rockets brought Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich to Sacramento; None of them lasted more than a year in Cowbell Kingdom. So basically the Kings could have had one of the best guards in the league and ended up with absolutely nothing a year later.
To pour salt on Sacramento’s wound, a few months after the trade, the Blazers sent a couple of guys you have never heard of (Kostas Papanikolaou and Marko Todorović) along with a pair of future 2nd-round picks to the Rockets for Robinson. So basically the Blazers ended up with the player the Kings should have picked and the player the Kings did pick for pretty much nothing.
Robinson played 102 games for the Blazers before being traded to the 76ers. He then played for the Nets and Lakers and is currently playing ball in Moscow.
Looking back, the 2012 Draft night seems like divine intervention from the Basketball Gods and redemption by the Blazers, who made two of the most infamous draft “mistakes” in NBA history: Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan (this was understandable at the time) in 1984 and Greg Oden over Kevin Durant (this was not) in 2007. But, at that time, a lot of people thought the Kings made the absolute right decision by taking Robinson over Lillard.
Here’s a collection of reactions compiled by ARoyalPain.com
CBS Sports (Eye On Basketball) – A+ – T-Rob is a relentless rebounder who slid a few spots, but will give the Kings another force up front to pair with DeMarcus Cousins. Robinson is a man who can step in immediately and make an impact on the glass. This was a terrific get for Geoff Petrie, one of the best drafters in the NBA.
Ball Don’t Lie – A+ – Perfect pick, perfect timing. Robinson may never be an All-Star, but that’s what DeMarcus Cousins is for, and Robinson will be his brutal helper as the Kings try to bang their way back toward respectability.
Sam Amick – A – No complaints here — from me or the Kings. Upon review, it appears that Sacramento was prepared to draft Dion Waiters at No. 5 rather than opt for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or perhaps even Harrison Barnes, if all three were available. But they never had to make the tough choice when Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson fell to them. He will be a force in the frontcourt with center DeMarcus Cousins, who is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the game.
CBS Sports Instant – A – The Kings have had their eye on Robinson for some time and had to wait and see if he’d be there for them. They get their wish, and their guy. Robinson probably isn’t star material, but he’s a high character player and putting him with DeMarcus Cousins means the Kings are going to be one tough team in the paint and on the glass.
Sporting News – A – The fact that they took Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick last year is a reminder of how badly things can go on draft night. The fact that Robinson dropped into their laps at No. 5 this year is a reminder of the wonders of dumb luck.
ESPN – A – (Insider subscription only)
After reading those grades, it seems like a lot of people besides the Kings GM would have made the same decision to pick Robinson. But that pick did surprise one specific NBA superstar.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) January 3, 2018
Lillard also worked out with his hometown Warriors, who had the 7th pick in the Draft.
“I grew up a Warriors fan, I’m still a Warriors fan,” Said Lillard during his pre-draft workout. “If I go somewhere else next year, that’ll be the first year I haven’t been a Warriors fan. I would love to play for my hometown team.”
Since the Blazers took Dame, the Warriors took Harrison Barnes and obviously things turned out just fine for the back-to-back NBA champions. But, the thought of The Splash Brothers having Dame in it is pretty interesting.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for (Curry’s) game because we come from similar situations, and I feel like he’s done well,” Lillard said. “I don’t want to come in and think I’m supposed to start. I just want to work my way onto the floor if I was here, and I’d be more than happy to play with him.”