Lillard makes case for NBA Rookie of the Year
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01
If I asked you to name a rookie in the NBA, what would be the first name to pop into your head? I can almost guarantee the name would be Anthony Davis. He was the most dominant player on the best team in college basketball last year, the Kentucky Wildcats, and was the first pick in the 2012 NBA draft. He even won a gold medal in the Olympics this past summer while learning from the best players in the world. Most people would think Davis would be the sure pick for the Rookie of the Year. I just am not that sure.
The player I am thinking of is a different kind of Wildcat. He was a Weber State Wildcat who was the sixth pick in the NBA draft selected by the Portland Trailblazers. I know what you are about to say: “Oh yeah, Portland, they really know how to pick players in the draft. They had a lot of great picks like Sam Bowie and Greg Oden. I am sure this guy is awesome.” Okay, you are right, in that Portland has had multiple busts in the NBA Draft. But this rookie is far from a bust.
The rookie is Damian Lillard, a 6’3” point guard with tremendous talent and play making ability. Lillard is one of the most talented young players in the game and at the same time one of the most underrated players in the game. Let’s be honest, unless you are an immediate superstar like LeBron James, you are not going to get the publicity you deserve on a small market team. If you don’t get the primetime games it takes much longer to make your name known, but that is not a problem for Lillard because he lets his game do the talking for him.
The Portland star averages 18.1 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He leads all rookies in scoring and averages two more buckets a game than the second leading rookie scorer. On top of this, he leads all rookies in assists per game as well. He has the highest fantasy rating of any rookie and he shoots 84 percent from the charity stripe. Now you are probably thinking to yourself, stats can be deceiving. These stats are not deceptive because Lillard backs them up with big time games and clutch performances.
Lillard proved he had ice in his veins when he buried a cold-blooded three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the New Orleans Hornets. He is a rookie that does not shy away from the big shots. He can’t shy away anyway, because the plays at the end of the game are run for him because Coach Terry Stotts knows he is the future of the franchise.
Lillard has defined himself in many other games besides the buzzer beaters. For example, he dropped a staggering 29 points to beat Tim Duncan’s top ranked Spurs 98-90. He also nailed multiple nail biting shots down stretch in the final minute to seal a home game win over the Rockets. Damien also had a career high game of 37 points in a tough loss in Oakland against the Warriors. Lillard faces double teams occasionally but he handles it like a pro. He dishes the rock to open teammates, like two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge who can bury any shot if you leave him open. This really makes the opponents pay for their decision to double-team.
Lillard is Portland’s next hope for a superstar after the tragic career ending injury of Brandon Roy. In a couple of years Lillard will be among the top point guards in the NBA, alongside another young player, Kyrie Irving. Lillard has a lot of weapons around him with Aldridge, Batum, Mathews, Leonard and Hickson, who will enhance his individual skills and their team development. The Rose Garden is always a tough place to get a win on the road since the crowd is so energetic. The only problem is that the Blazers struggle on the road. Lillard’s new presence in the lineup will help the Trailblazers become a better road team, which is the first step in becoming a better all around team and a championship contender.
Lillard deserves to win the Rookie of the Year award. He is playing at a top-notch level and he has quickly earned the respect of his locker room at such a young age. There are a lot of great players in this year’s rookie class but no other player stands out with the skill, leadership, stats and hard work that Damien Lillard has shown this NBA season.