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