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Who is going to win Rookie of the Year? Try Damian Lillard.

Sep 2, 2012, 3:30 PM EDT

Damian Lillard, Austin Rivers AP

Predicting who is going to win Rookie of the Year is a lot like trying to predict this winter’s snowfall totals in the first week of September — we have some broad trends to go on but the specifics are ahead of us still. It’s a guess.

My guess: Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that he is better than people realized coming in the draft — he went all the way up to No. 6 but came from off the radar. One of the key reasons he wasn’t higher was he played at Weber State in Utah, a school people end up at as a safety school and one without great competition in basketball. Team GMs had to sell owners and fans Lillard was not a long shot pick.

When I saw him at Summer League in Las Vegas he clearly was not. He was an explosive athlete. He can and did score and there were moments you pictured a Russell Westbrook like attacker. But he also showed way more polish as a rookie than scoring guards like Westbrook and Derrick Rose showed.

What is more, he goes on to a team with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, as well as some other veterans. He’s got a guy on the wing and an All-Star in the post to play off. Guys he can feed for open looks, guys who create lanes for him because the defense can’t help. Yes, the talent he has to face (particularly at the point) is substantially better at the NBA level than Summer League, but he is in a position to succeed.

That is, if he is given the green light. If the goal of the Blazers coaching staff is to control him and not let a rookie make decisions, he will be limited.

What about Anthony Davis, you ask? He’s going to be very good, he is going to come in as a defensive force, and in a few years he is going to be the best player out of this class.

Davis is a long, shot-blocking, rim-protecting big man but to really be effective doing that at the NBA level — to be Tyson Chandler or Dwight Howard — he must get stronger. Guys will be able to physically overpower him right now. Plus, the pace of the game and what he will be asked to do defensively will be an adjustment.

And really, you don’t win the ROY award by playing defense. You’ve got to score. And while Davis can finish around the rim and while he has some midrange game, he is not going to be asked to score much. Offense they get from him will be a bonus. Eric Gordon will lead this team on the offensive end.

Davis is so very good and he could still win ROY. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stands a chance because he will get minutes on a bad Bobcats team, because he will hustle every play like few in the league, and because he showed in Las Vegas he has a better shot than he got credit for coming out of college. I like him

But Lillard is very good — athletically and making decisions — and he is in a position to succeed with players around him. He’s my pick because he will impress and put up numbers. It may take a while for the casual fans and national columnists to catch up, but he will be the guy to watch.

It’s going to be fun to watch it play out.

  1. cantonbound13 - Sep 2, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Is Greg Oden still eligable?

  2. test2402 - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Freaking bastard guy in the shop. No. No. Ok yes.

  3. money2long - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    this kid is the real deal. marbury 2.0. the improved version.

    • saint1997 - Sep 3, 2012 at 4:26 AM

      absolutely. his shot is so money if you watch his workouts he barely misses

  4. buffalo65 - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Of course since he’s playing in Toronto you Americans choose to ignore him but Jonas Valencunos will will it.

    • ihavenonickname - Sep 2, 2012 at 4:47 PM


  5. camnellum12 - Sep 2, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    I’m probably gonna be all alone on this one, but I think Andre Drummond will have a good season. Him plus Greg Monroe should workout well, he handles the defensive clean-up and boards, while Monroe takes care of the post-offense. He’s an athlete that can jump out the building, and he seemed to have a motor in Summer League. He was stigmatized from UCONN because he was a dazed freshman (who came in at the last minute!) and was on a shady team: Napier and Lamb were selfish, Jim Calhoun had health problems. Some stats do make him seem like he’s a walking bust (his rebounds per game), but put him in the right environment, he can become a beast in the league. And I know Anthony Davis is good and is a No.1 pick, but it seems to me if he doesn’t pan out, he’ll be another Stromile Swift.

    • adzs - Sep 2, 2012 at 7:24 PM

      I was with you the whole way…till the Anthony Davis Stromile Swift comparison lool -_-

      • camnellum12 - Sep 2, 2012 at 9:40 PM

        Look at the body size and intangibles. Davis should be more of a Marcus Camby player, but at his worst he’ll be Stromile Swift.

      • money2long - Sep 3, 2012 at 11:09 AM


        You said at HIS worst he’ll be Stromile Swift… but isn’t that simply THE worst in general?

      • camnellum12 - Sep 4, 2012 at 9:31 AM

        I was just thinking about this the other day. Watch both Stromile Swift and Anthony Davis get drafted, and hear what the “Draft Guru’s” have to say about the two SEC shot-blockers:

        Swift –

        Davis –

        They both are the same player outta college, Davis just did it better and had a much better team than Swift did. If Davis doesn’t pick-up the mental part of the game and have no work ethic, I’m sure history will repeat itself.

      • money2long - Sep 4, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        yea, i hear you on that point. but i figured you were talking about how their careers turn out. not prospect reports.

  6. eugenesaxe - Sep 2, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Lillard’s going to need a Hell of a year, unless Davis outright sucks. Too much media attention to overcome.

  7. glink123 - Sep 2, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    keep ignoring Harrison Barnes, fools.

  8. jjordannba - Sep 2, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Andrew Nicholson of the Magic. Don’t know him, look em up.

  9. buffalo65 - Sep 2, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Just did, couldn’t find him….good luck with that one. Lol

    • jjordannba - Sep 2, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      That’s funny because he was the 19th pick in the draft, so it shouldn’t be that hard for any person that’s halfway tech-savvy and under 70.

    • saint1997 - Sep 3, 2012 at 4:28 AM

      hahahhaha cmon let the magic fans have this they’re going to suck for the next like 5 years at least

      • jjordannba - Sep 3, 2012 at 2:38 PM

        I’m no Magic fan, that would be tough. Celtics fan.

  10. dubitodd123 - Sep 2, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    Alexey shved!!

  11. ronhodgessurvives - Sep 2, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    Watch out for Scott Machado.

  12. buffalo65 - Sep 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    Don’t know, every time I search Magic all I get Is Howard and alot of crying.

    • tcclark - Sep 3, 2012 at 12:55 AM

      really? every time i search Magic, i get a bunch of sites about wizards and magicians.

  13. hannsta - Sep 4, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Yup lets go Blazers! ‘Rise With Us’ era is kind of dead but Im praying Lillard will be the start to a new one.

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