Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been unanimously voted NBA Rookie of the Year. The announcement came at 4:00 pm today, from the Rose Garden arena, where Lillard was presented with the award. He has shown us why it belongs to him all season, and today the trophy is officially his.
It became apparent early on that Damian was something special. In fact, his NBA debut could have been called the Damian Lillard Show. He dropped 23 points with 11 assists on the Los Angeles All-Stars and the fun didn’t end there. Damian continued playing at a high level throughout the year, winning Western Conference Rookie of the Month every month this season. The last player to do so was Blake Griffin, one of just 3 other players in NBA history to be unanimously voted Rookie of the Year (David Robinson and Ralph Sampson are the remaining two).
Lillard’s most notable quality has been his seemingly veteran basketball intelligence. Unlike most players that declare for the NBA draft today, he played 4 years of college ball and entered the league at 22. This additional time spent refining his craft translates to spectacular court awareness, confidence, and maturity.
The Trail Blazers drafted Lillard with the 6th pick in the 2012 NBA draft; after Anthony Davis (Hornets), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Bradley Beal (Wizards), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), and Thomas Robinson (Kings). That’s a veritable laundry list of quality prospects that were left in Damian’s dust. Remember when Bradley Beal was being touted as a better Ray Allen? Or when Bobcats fans raised hell at receiving the #2 pick because the talent drop-off was so steep after Anthony Davis? The draft lottery has a funny way of keeping things interesting.
Lillard turned out to be the right choice not just because of his stellar play, but because of his stellar condition. Damian started all 82 games, logging the most minutes of any player in the NBA this season (3,166). During that time he averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists, well above any expectation. For reference, that’s more than last year’s R.O.Y., Kyrie Irving, did in his rookie season, and he was drafted #1.
Damian’s talent drew high praise from NBA stars like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the season wore on. If you clicked that link, you probably saw that the Black Mamba himself hailed Lillard as “the real deal” after Damian dropped a career high 38 points on the Lakers. His acclaim grew exponentially throughout the sports community, from player to analyst to writer to broadcaster, until there was no questioning his ability.
Damian now takes his place in history as the 4th Trail Blazer ever to win the award (Geoff Petrie, Sidney Wicks, and Brandon Roy are the others) and he earned it. He has potential to be Portland’s savior as other players turn an eye to the Rose City with interest. Just how far off is a playoff berth? The future of the Portland Trail Blazers is bright and his name is Damian Lillard.
NBA Rising Star
NBA Skills Challenge Champion
Kia Community Assist Award (March)
Maurice Lucas Award
Kia Community Assist Award Finalist (Decision pending)
NBA Rookie 3PT Record
Portland Trail Blazers Single Season 3PT Record
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (November)
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (December)
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (January)
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (February)
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (March)
Western Conference Rookie of the Month (April)
NBA Rookie of the Year 2013