There was little doubt, if any, that Damian Lillard would win Rookie of the Year, but whether he would join Ralph Sampson, David Robinson and Blake Griffin as the only rookies to win the award unanimously was still up for debate.
While Lillard lead all rookies in scoring and assists and set a new record for 3-pointers made in a season by a rookie, there were some prominent and respected voices like Chad Ford and Henry Abbott, both of ESPN.com, who wondered if the award shouldn't got to a player like Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond, players who didn't have the per game stats that Lillard did, but better advanced stats like PER and Win Shares.
"… If you look at virtually every stat, Davis had a better year," Ford wrote in a chat on ESPN.com
. "PER, Win Shares, WARP, you name it ... all of them show Davis clearly as the best rookie last season."
Despite that argument, all 121 voters cast their ballot for Lillard. And while Lillard himself appreciates the importance of efficiency, he notes that it's not the end all, be all of a player's value.
"If I'm not as efficient, then that's one thing," said Lillard. "But I think being out there, playing the most minutes in the league, playing every game is hard! The rookies that they said were more efficient, if they played the amount of minutes and played in every game and had the amount of responsibility that I have and then they were more efficient, then that's one thing. But we had completely different situations."
Which is why statistics, be they advanced or otherwise, only tell part of the story. No rookie was relied upon this season by his respective team like Lillard and playing every game is incredibly difficult for any player, let alone a rookie who never played more than 31 games in a season at Weber State.
"It's more of them saying 'These guys didn't get the amount of time he got so they couldn't produce those numbers' instead of appreciating the fact that I was able to play a lot of minutes in all 82 games," said Lillard of the bulk stats versus efficiency debate. "You could look at it either way, but I think it's unfair to say they're more efficient because they didn't have the amount of responsibility and they didn't play those amount of minutes."
Being on the floor should count for something, and for the 121 voters who made Lillard a unanimous selection, it did.