Mar 14

Thorpe: Lillard The Best 22-year-old Rookie

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, damianlillard, Knicks, willbarton's David Thorpe has been ranking the 2012-13 rookies by age group. Today, he turns his attention to the older side of the rookie demographic: 22-year-olds. And when it comes to 22-year-old rookies, there's no question whose got that No. 1 spot ...
1. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Too much is always made of "rookie mistakes" and the "rookie wall." All players make dumb mistakes and have down games or even bad weeks and months. Lillard has certainly had his share of ups and downs, but not because he is a rookie; that's just the nature of the game.

The great news for Blazers fans is that his good weeks are terrific and his down times are not so bad, which is why this young man will be on the cusp of the All-Star Game for years to come. There is no guarantee he will make it, as the competition is always fierce at his position, but being an elite guard is what matters most. And Lillard has that in his line of sight.

He has shown he can be a great shooter, and a poor one, so making 3s more consistently will be a plus, as will learning the balance between being a dynamic scorer and an overall playmaker. That craft takes years to perfect.
Finding that balance will come with time, but you also have to consider Lillard is being forced in some respects to play the role of "dynamic scorer." After all, if he doesn't score, the Trail Blazers have very little chance of winning.

Rookie Will Barton also gets a mention as well, though Thorpe's assessment isn't nearly as rosy as his assessment of Lillard ...
It's tough to find a good ceiling for a shooting guard who can't shoot and is not a very good scorer. He was a very good college player, and it typically takes some adjustment going from being "the man" to being a second-round pick in the pros. Barton has a good overall feel and some quicks and handle, so seeing him become a second-unit scorer would not be surprising, especially if that role is carved out for him.
Will's adjustment from being "the man" to playing in a regulated system has been a season-long work-in-progress, but he's getting there.


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