With the 2012-13 NBA season set to tip-off this week, it's time for all of the last minute predictions to be made. DIME Magazine recently put out their own list of the Top 10 Rookie of the Year candidates
. And the guy at the top of the mountain may surprise you. Well, not if you're a Trail Blazer fan, but to the average NBA fan outside of the Northwest, it might. No, it's not No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis. It's our very own Damian Lillard. And here's why ...
Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is the only rookie that may see more court time than Davis. Pegged as the future of the position in Portland before he finished shaking David Stern’s hand on draft night, no other rookie will shoulder the amount of responsibility this season as Lillard. The keys to the offense? New coach Terry Stotts has already given Lillard the keys, two spare tires, a GPS system and a AAA membership. Part of this is because of Lillard’s impressive ability to control a game. The other part is due to Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price being the only other point guards on the Blazers roster.
Through the pre-season, the two main contenders for the Eddie Gottlieb trophy played nearly the same amount of minutes per game with Lillard edging the Unibrow in points, assists, and overall shooting percentage and Davis besting Dame in rebounds and blocks. Although this was just a small sample size (6 games for Lillard, 7 for Davis) in games that don't count, I would bet on those trends staying true throughout an 82-game season. Both players are going to put up fantastic stats. But stats aren't going to win this award, this year. It will come down to which rook is able to turn-around their franchise the quickest. The Trail Blazers had just a .424 winning percentage during last season's lockout-shortened season while the Hornets won at just a .318 clip -- a Western Conference low.
Nobody really questioned Lillard’s scoring prowess coming out of college, but many have underestimated his ability to distribute. He may never average double digit assists in a season, but he is an excellent pick-and-roll ball handler and has a knack for pushing the ball and finding the open man. A two-man game with Lillard and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge should be a thing of beauty for many years in Rip City.
LaMarcus Aldridge. It could very well be the L-Train who ultimately pushes Lillard over the top in the R.O.Y. race. Lillard has an All-Star in Aldridge to act as a security blanket if trying times come upon the 22-year old. Every rookie hits the proverbial "Rookie Wall" at some point during their first year; It's not a matter of if but when. This is where having a battle-tested veteran and Top 15 player on your side comes into play. While Davis has fellow rookie Austin Rivers and up and comer, Eric Gordon to lean on, neither is used to shouldering the offensive load or looked upon as a leader in the locker room for a full 82-game slate. Advantage Lillard.
Judging from his demeanor, maturity, and goals he set out for himself for not only his rookie season but for his entire career, all of Rip City should feel comfortable in Damian's ability to handle the pressure and break through the "Rookie Wall" as quickly as possible.
"My ultimate goals as a Trail Blazers are that I want to be one of the best point guards to play for the Trail Blazers. I want to play for one team. I want to be an All-Star…more than one time, hopefully that can happen. I want to win a championship, just like everybody else. I definitely feel like this is the best place for me, because of the young players, players attitudes and the vibe you get from people around the city."