With the regular season less than a month away from kicking off, it's time for the members of the media to make their annual pre-season predictions. Sports Illustrated paneled four of their NBA writers to assess the rookie class of 2012
with such questions as "Which rookie will struggle?", "Which rookie taken outside of the top 10 will teams most regret passing on?", and "Five years down the road, who will we consider the best player from this draft?" But really, there's only one question on the minds of Rip City heading into the 2012-13 season: Who's going to take home the Eddie Gottlieb trophy as the NBA's top rookie?
Ian Thomsen, Lee Jenkins, Chris Mannix, and Paul Forrester were each asked, "Fact or Fiction: Anthony Davis will be the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year." Both Thomsen and Forrester see the Unibrow taking home the hardware due to his ability to become a game-changer on the defensive end of the court as well as increasing the Hornet's record. But Jenkins believes the Blazers are being slept on and the reason you can't sleep on Rip City is because of our new floor general, Damian Lillard.
Fiction. It's much harder for big men to assert themselves early than guards. Davis is with a young team, in a brutal conference, and he spent only one year in college. I'll go with Portland point guard Damian Lillard because he is older, he'll have the ball in his hands and he's the rare rookie with a lot of experience running the pick-and-roll. The Blazers will bounce back this season and Lillard stands to receive much of the credit.
While Mannix envisions Davis as being the best player out of this draft, he uses the argument that the Rookie of the Year winner tends to put up the best stats. And it's no secret that Portland will be looking to push the tempo this year and improve upon their 97.2 points per game
scored in 2011-12, which ranked them just 16 out of 30 teams. With Lillard having the ball in his hands on nearly every possession, especially for an uptempo team, not only could he put up monster numbers scoring the rock, but double-digit assists could be a regular ordeal when feeding fast-break finishers like LaMarcus Aldridge, JJ Hickson, and Nicolas Batum.
Fiction. Ultimately, Davis will be the class of the '12 draft. His defensive instincts remind me of Ben Wallace's and his offensive game will polish in time. But the ROY award often goes to the player who puts up big numbers, and I think there will be rookies who have better statistical seasons than Davis. Lillard scored in college, scored in the summer league and, with the starting guard job in hand, will likely score for a Blazers team desperately in need of offensive firepower.
Thankfully the pre-season starts in two days. Let's settle this on the court.