Damian Lillard for ROY?
The Portland Trail Blazers selected Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA draft not just because he is a point guard, but because he might be one of the most talented players in the entire 2012 class.
Last year at Weber State, Damian Lillard showed us that he has the talent and drive to compete, and he’s continued to display what he can do throughout pre-draft workouts and the Las Vegas Summer League.
Winning the Summer League Co-MVP award is a nice start to Lillard’s career, but it also begs the question, where will he rank among the top-5 Rookie of the Year candidates next season?
Top ROY Candidates:
5) Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is a clutch shooter with deep range on his shot, but he’ll have to compete for a spot in the starting lineup next season.
4) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a great leader for the Charlotte Bobcats, but there’s no statistical category he’s likely to stand out in.
3) Thomas Robinson
Thomas Robinson is arguably the most NBA ready of all prospects, but his numbers might not show it right away, as he shares a frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins.
2) Damian Lillard
Following his MVP performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, it’s easy to see how Lillard should make a serious case for Rookie of the Year.
His game is about as diverse as it comes for his position, and his style of play is right on par for what is expected from today’s ultra-athletic scoring point guards.
The last two point guards to win Rookie of the Year honors are Kryie Irving and Derrick Rose—not bad company should Lillard join that list next season.
Irving averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds last year, while Rose put up 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds in his rookie campaign.
That being said, the point guard is likely to be the third option on offense right off the bat, and he’s been known to put up high numbers all over the stat sheet.
His athleticism is top-notch
Combine this with his high basketball IQ, and you have a point guard who is a great rebounder, can get past defenses and should have the edge against his competition on a regular basis.
When Lillard is put into a spot where he can’t take over athletically, he’s got his jump shot to bail him out of uncomfortable situations.
Having shot above 40 percent from the three-point line last year at Weber State—not to mention putting on a complete shooting display during pre-draft workouts—this could be one area of his game that separates him from the rest of the attack-the-rim point guards that the league has to offer.
What also makes Lillard special is that he has the ability to find his teammates and run the offense.
As a part of the Trail Blazers’ roster, he’s going to be expected to score, but not nearly in the volume that was expected of him the past few years.
Throughout his time at Weber State, Lillard was forced to put up 15.5 shots per game out of necessity. He didn’t have a LaMarcus Aldridge with whom he could run the pick-and-roll game, so his primary role was to score the basketball.
Lillard is a better pick-and-roll point guard than most give him credit for. Having a player of Aldridge’s abilities will help put on display what Lillard can do as a facilitator.
Aldridge is still the go-to player on this roster, but we saw last year that he cannot carry a team to the postseason on his own.
If this Trail Blazers squad makes the playoffs next year, Lillard is going to be handed a lot of the credit.
Lillard is a major piece to the puzzle, and he could very well have the second-highest impact on his team of any NBA rookie next season.
The player with the most impact?
That would be the New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis.
The No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft is going to step right in and make his presence instantly felt on the defensive end of the floor.
Don’t be surprised, either, if Davis shows he has a bit of an offensive game.
The former shooting guard—now 6’10” power forward—hasn’t forgotten how to handle the ball, and he has an emerging offensive game whether he’s facing up or has his back to the basket.
Davis is versatile and will have a huge impact, but don’t be surprised if Lillard is right behind him in both of those categories.
When it comes down to it, the thing that could most propel Lillard to success in his rookie season is his incredible motor.
The point guard has a chip on his shoulder coming from a small school, and he’s ready to prove wrong everybody who says he can’t compete at the NBA level.
If he’s struggling at times during his inaugural season, don’t expect Lillard to fall into a slump and pout throughout the year.
He wants to get better, he wants to prove people wrong and he’s set on doing those things early in his NBA career.
1) Anthony Davis
As the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and an incredible defensive presence, Anthony Davis is the front runner for Rookie of the Year.