ROY in PDX
The 22-year-old averaged an impressive 19.0 points, 6.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 36.8 percent from deep range and recording a PER of 16.45.
Entering the 2012 draft, one thing was clear—the Blazers needed an upgrade at the point guard spot. The team opted to select Lillard with the No. 6 pick, but it wasn’t without risk, as Lillard’s score-first mentality and small-school background didn’t scream superstar to a number of scouts.
How would the point guard adjust to being a facilitator? Could he put up the kind of numbers he did at Weber State against NBA competition?
From day one it was clear that Damian Lillard was a special kind of player. His historic season opener was a sign of things to come, and now the team has reason to celebrate its first Rookie of the Year since the 2005-06 season.
Damian Lillard is the first NBA player with at least 21 points and nine assists in his first career game since LeBron James on Oct. 29, 2003
— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) November 1, 2012
Brandon Roy, the team’s most recent ROY recipient, went on to have a remarkable career before his playing days were shortened by bad knees. So long as Lillard avoids major injuries—Rip City might lose all faith if that happens—he’ll have a chance to truly lead Portland back into contention.
Preceding Roy in the PDX rookie honors was Sidney Wicks in 1972. The big man averaged 24.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 82 games his rookie year. Before him came the original Trail Blazer, Geoff Petrie, who split honors with Dave Cowens in 1971.
No award is official until it’s announced. That being said, Lillard was the Rookie of the Year all season, and the competition was limited when it was all said and done.
Entering the season, Anthony Davis was the favorite to take home the award. He was the first pick in the draft, a defensive specialist and the overall safest pick both now and deep into the future.
At No. 6, Lillard was a chance worth taking, as he proved to be reliable from start to finish.
Behind Davis, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond were next in line. Beal played an inconsistent brand of basketball to begin the year, while Drummond never saw enough minutes to truly be in the running.
There’s a reason Lillard swept the Rookie of the Month honors this season, and that fact alone proves that this was a decided race long before Wednesday’s announcement. He was a unanimous choice for the ROY honor, marking just the fourth time that’s happened in NBA history.
— Mike Tokito (@mtokito) May 1, 2013
Style of Play
The Rookie of the Year battle isn’t a popularity contest, but getting the most attention certainly helps when it comes to recognition.
Lillard had a few things going for him this season. First, he’s a point guard in a point guard’s league. Ever since the enforcement of the hand-checking rule, perimeter players have been able to put their athleticism and playmaking skills on full display, allowing Lillard the regular opportunity to get to the rim.
Lillard also loves the long ball. Luckily for him, so do fans, and that won him over in the eyes of many.
Finally, at 22 years old, he’s an absolute workhorse. Not only did he show that he can be counted on in clutch situations, but he logged more minutes than any player in the entire NBA.
People love watching this kid play, and that only helped his chances.
Impact on Team
Watching Lillard play, it was clear what he did for this team. He pushed the tempo, he found his teammates and he kept defenses honest with his ability to finish both at the rim and behind the three point line.
Lillard’s ability to help this team was apparent all season long, but the more noteworthy point to drive home is how badly the Blazers struggled when he was on the bench.
When Lillard went to the bench, Portland’s production dropped 12 points per 48 minutes. That’s the most on the team by a long shot, and the most of any of his rookie competition.
The Blazers may not be in the playoffs, but this is a major victory in Rip City’s franchise history. Fans have something to be excited about with Lillard, and a historic season should be just the start of a wonderful career.