1. Damian Lillard, Portland
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.
Lillard shot up draft boards due to impressive pre-draft workouts and a strong showing at the combine. He tested well physically and shot the ball arguably better than any other prospect. When he got to Vegas in July, it didn’t take long for the entire league to take notice of the rookie from Weber State. He didn’t just play well in Vegas, he completely tore up the Strip. With averages of 26 points, five assists and four boards, Lillard demonstrated that he could excel against non-Big Sky Conference talent, taking home co-MVP honors.
Unlike Jerryd Bayless muscling his way to the foul line for 30 points a game at Summer League in 2008, Lillard got his points from all over the court and within the flow of the offense. He sought his shot when it was there and looked to set up his teammates when it was not. In six preseason games, Lillard averaged a rookie-best 16 points and a solid six assists. He shot 46 percent from the floor, 36 percent from deep and 95 percent from line, doing it all with a poise beyond his years.
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.
Who should be the Rookie of the Year?
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