Why 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year Award Will Be Two-Man Race

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent INovember 6, 2012

October 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets power forward Anthony Davis (23) before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA season is a week old, and the Rookie of the Year race is already shaping up to be a two-man race. In New Orleans, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis has been everything he's been hyped up to be and more, while in Portland, No. 6 pick Damian Lillard has become one of the league's best point men overnight.

Looking at the other rookies taken in the first round with them, there really isn't anyone who stands out besides these two. No. 2 pick and current Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has only appeared in two games with inconsistent results, and while Dion Waiters of the Cleveland Cavaliers has performed well, he hasn't exactly been overwhelmingly good nor the star of his team.

In terms of every other rookie like Thomas Robinson, Austin Rivers and others, they either have not received enough playing time to warrant consideration, or their performances have been underwhelming.

Davis and Lillard, on the other hand, are special. Both have come out of the starting gate at full speed and are slowly becoming the new faces of their respective teams.

Lillard was immediately placed into the starting point guard's role and has gotten the Trail Blazers off to a 2-2 start. Thus far, he has averaged 19.3 points and eight assists per game as the offense's new leader. 

The only real mark against Lillard is that he is looking to score just as much as he passes, resulting in a shooting percentage of 40 percent from the field and just 29 percent from long range. Still, he's only 22 years old and will learn the balance with time and patience. Keep in mind, he was the face of the offense at Weber State and is now getting used to a system where he has LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum at his disposal.

That brings us to Davis, the 19-year-old freshman out of Kentucky, who was taken first overall just a few months after helping the Wildcats win a national championship. Though highly touted, his skinny build at 6'10", 220 pounds seemed a bit small for a potential big man.

However, Davis has shown incredible poise on the court and despite his age, it's as though he's been in the league for a number of years already. He has only appeared in two games due to a recent concussion, but his numbers are still highly respectable.

In star guard Eric Gordon's absence, Davis has averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 21.5 minutes per contest. His shot has been incredibly accurate as he has shot an incredible 56 percent from the field.

Unless one of the two misses a significant chunk of time that takes them out of the race or their numbers just tank, then there's no reason to believe that anybody can challenge Davis or Lillard for NBA Rookie of the Year. Both men have approached the game ready and willing to learn how to effectively compete on the professional level and their futures in the league are bright.

In the end, however, unless his concussion keeps him out for an extended period of time, Davis is clearly the better choice for the award. He's from a program whose coach, John Calipari, is well known for preparing his players for the NBA, and Davis has shown that he can do that quite well in the pros.

Lillard is talented, but his impulsiveness when it comes to scoring still needs improvement. That doesn't happen overnight and while he'll make a run for the award, he'll fall just short by season's end.

Thus, on this Election Day in a two-man race for NBA Rookie of the Year, the trophy goes to Davis.  He's going to play a big role in getting the New Orleans Hornets back in contention and already has the tools to become great almost immediately.

The best part, however, is that the best has yet to come.