Is Damian Lillard a rookie of the year lock?
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
When Anthony Davis went down, Damian Lillard stepped on to the throne.
The Portland Trail Blazers point guard has spent most of the season as the heavy favorite to take rookie of the year honors. Lillard should make it 3-for-3 in rookie of the month awards in a few days, once January is through. He started right away, picked up huge minutes and made his impact.
That impact has shown in USA TODAY Sports’ NBA power rankings, where Lillard has led for all but one week in our rookie race.
This week was no different, with Lillard taking five of six first-place votes. It makes sense; Lillard averages 18.3 points and 6.5 assists in 38.4 minutes a game. No other rookie averages 15 points, five assists or 32 minutes.
A few members of our power rankings panel shared some insight on what it would take for another rookie to overtake Lillard and who that rookie might be, with most looking at Davis, the No. 1 draft pick for the New Orleans Hornets, who averages 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 28.9 minutes a game.
Hoopsworld.com’s Lang Greene says it’s Davis: “Davis is the clear threat to Damian Lillard for this season’s Rookie of the Year award. Davis has had a tough time staying healthy but has proven on many occasions this season the ability to dominate as a rookie.”
USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt agrees, but doesn’t see it happening: “Lillard benefits from a team with a winning record that could make the playoffs. That will make it tough for Davis to finish ahead of Lillard.”
Hoopsworld.com’s Steve Kyler goes with Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters: “While efficiency is still an issue for Waiters, he is living up to his fourth overall selection status. Waiters has scored more than 16 points in 17 of his 37 games this season and is showing flashes of being one of the better rookies in the class.”
I was the one voter to pick against Lillard now, so I will defend my selection of Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, who only averages 7.3 points, … [For more on Roundtable: Is Damian Lillard a rookie of the year lock?, click here.]