Aug 22

Thorpe: Why Damian Lillard Could Win Rookie Of The Year

By DHawes22 Posted in: Blazers, damianlillard
With the start of training camp still over a month away and the thirtieth Olympic games now in our rear-view, it appears the Dog Days of Summer have a stranglehold on the sporting world. And if you aren't into professional baseball or soccer, then more than likely the countdown to the first pre-season game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 10th feels 10x worse than waiting for Christmas Eve to turn into Morning. That's where the speculation and guessing comes in. Will the addition of Dwight Howard propel the Lakers past the Thunder as the West's best? Can anyone challenge LeBron James as the league's Most Valuable Player? And which rookie from the decorated class of 2012 will be named Rookie of the Year?

Most would assume that all-everything Anthony Davis has this award on lock-down. And to his credit, he should be the odds-on-favorite out of the gate. After all, he was the top pick in the draft and the only rookie to play with Team USA this summer in London. But, just like in any race, there are other worthy contenders. One of them is our very own Damian Lillard. ESPN.com's David Thorpe took his top three candidates (David, Lillard, Midd-Gilchrist) and made the case as to why each player could win and why they won't win. Here's what he had to say about No. 0.
Lillard showed us all during the Las Vegas summer league games that he is among the most talented point guards to enter the league in the past five seasons. He is even more polished than Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, when they first arrived in the NBA, yet more explosive than most any other of the previous rookie point guards that we have seen.

I would agree completely that Lillard's more polished coming out of the collegiate ranks than Westbrook as Russ was viewed as somewhat of a raw prospect and Dame had four years in school (albeit only playing three due to a medical redshirt) compared to his two. But more polished than No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose? That's some serious praise. Yes, Lillard is 22 coming into his rookie campaign versus Rose's 19, but D-Rose led his Memphis Tigers all the way to the National Championship Game as a true freshman. If Lillard comes anywhere close to Rose's rookie averages of 16.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds per game than Rip City is in very good hands for the foreseeable future with Damian Lillard running the show.

If he gets the green light to make plays, like John Wall, Westbrook, Rose and Kyrie Irving, then undoubtedly we'll see a great number of stellar scoring and passing nights from Lillard. Next to a post presence like LaMarcus Aldridge and veterans like Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews, Lillard will be able to generate offense through his teammates more than most rookies will be given the chance to. This means his chances at scoring more efficiently are strong. He has the potential to average 16 points and six assists per game with a steal or so thrown in there, too. And though he's not the shooter Irving is, with the weapons around him Lillard can get enough open looks from deep to possibly average better than 35 percent.

By bringing in offensive guru Terry Stotts, there's no doubt in my mind that Lillard's light will be constantly green. And regardless of the number of points he puts up or wins he's apart of, one intangible factor will decide whether or not Lillard is destined to be mentioned in the same breathe as Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, and Russell Westbrook. Does he make his teammates better or not? A lot of people around the league are bringing up the fact that Lillard has the likes of Aldridge, Batum, and Matthews to lean on to make him not only a better player but his transition into the NBA a smoother one. But what if it's Lillard who makes like easier for everyone else?

Thorpe isn't the only basketball mind hopping on the Lillard for R.O.Y. bandwagon. ESPN polled 100 basketball junkies throughout their networks asking each to cast their pre-season ballot for Rookie of the Year and while the results yielded someone other than Lillard as the runaway winner, the 6-3 floor general has cemented himself as a true contender to the rookie crown. To no one's surprise New Orleans' Anthony Davis received the majority of the votes (71), but Lillard was the only other first-year player to garner double-digit votes (10).

ESPN also wanted to hear from the fans across Twitter and asked their followers who they thought was the favorite to be named the league's top rookie by using the hashtag #NBApicks. Here are some of the tweets supporting our own Damian Lillard:

Gaudy numbers and monster slam dunks aside, the reason I feel strongly that it will indeed be Lillard raising the Eddie Gottlieb trophy at season's end is due to his mindset and mental approach to the game. The kid carries himself like a 12-year veteran, not a wide-eyed rookie from the Big Sky Conference. If you don't believe me, take a look for youself.

"That's what I had for a few years and I got to a point where I was shooting so well on a milk crate that when I got onto the real court, it was like Heaven." - Damian Lillard


  1. Hey DHawes22; great Blog. I am becoming more of a Lizard fan all the time.
    Remember you told me Lillard could probably pass more then he was credited for and Marshall could shoot better then given credit for.
    If you remember I wanted Drummand at 6 and Marshall at 11. I think the FO made a much wiser draft and I am getting special vibes about the team this year with Lillard running the show. It should be very exciting.

    There is something wrong with the subscribe to comment part of the Blazer blogs so sometimes comments gets lost now.

    by Hg on 8/22/2012 2:40 PM
  2. Thank you for bringing that bug to our attention HG! As for Lillard...I haven't thought so highly of a young player since Roy. If you remember, Roy led us to victory, on the road, in Seattle during the 2006-07 season opener with clutch basket after clutch basket. If we see clutch performances early on from Dame..watch out!

    by DHawes22 on 8/22/2012 4:40 PM
  3. I hope he have a healthy career, famous career for the PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS AND ALWAYS WILL BE A BLAZERS

    by DamianLilard on 8/22/2012 6:03 PM
  4. I have a strange good feeling about DLill and our team. I hope I am right.

    by Hg on 8/22/2012 8:30 PM
  5. I'm with you Hg! I am really excited about the team this year...in my opinion, Lillard will have a great rookie year and I think we have one of the most underrated benches in the league. Like the new GM and the new coaching staff. Lillard will make our vets much better and we're deep

    by riverman on 8/25/2012 10:36 AM
  6. I'm not so sure I agree that our bench is underrated. I don't believe any bench rotation player will have played more than two seasons coming into this year's (assuming Ronnie Price is the 3rd string point guard and JJ Hickson could start his fair share of games). While I like the potential of our bench players, mainly Elliot Williams and Meyers Leonard (again, assuming he's coming off the bench), I think our bench could see a lot of growing pains this year. I would say that our Starting Five is underrated though. Really liking how the core is starting to take shape.

    by DHawes22 on 8/25/2012 1:15 PM
  7. I think Elliot will challenge Wes for the starters job. I like LaMarcus as the starter captain and Wes as the bench captain. Wes, Leonard, Hickson, Barton and Smith or Price could be a great bench unit. I think Freeland will start at the 5.

    by riverman on 8/25/2012 1:43 PM
  8. IMO, Wes should be the starter, unless U are in the camp of starting the best player. Wesley is a rhythm player that does better as the game goes on. but isn't an instant spark as EWill is. EWill can start or come off the bench equally good whereas Matthew is best at starting.
    With the plan of uptempo, should come the plan of fresh legs, so again IMO, it really shouldn't matter who starts, unless the coach runs two complete different units. But I am sure he will stagger the unit coming in so every player will be used to playing with all the other players.
    Depth to me is having quality players that work hard, not necessarily older players that can just hold the lead but hasn't much left in the tank. So a bench without experience can give you depth if they go out and hit it hard.

    by Hg on 8/25/2012 9:30 PM
  9. I'm with you riverman. I think eventually, we will see Elliot take over the starter's job from Wes and Wes will be our 6th man off the bench providing outside shooting, energy, and defense.

    by DHawes22 on 8/28/2012 11:53 AM
  1. Leave a comment

Blog Contributors

Most Commented

The most commented posts in the past month

Blog Archives