Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
Damian Lillard is the most impactful rookie thus far this season, but he might be fool's gold.
Damian Lillard is currently the top ranked rookie.
While there’s only so long that you can doubt a guy before giving in, the doubt will actually continue in a different form here.
It's important to discuss the fool’s gold theory.
If an NBA team wants to make a star, it can. The Sacramento Kings did it with Tyreke Evans, the Minnesota Timberwolves did it with Jonny Flynn and now the Portland Trail Blazers are doing it with Lillard.
The league is all about opportunities to have the ball in a player’s hands and the amount of shots allowed to be taken. But what happens when a team yanks away that opportunity?
The 6'3" guard out of the Big Sky Conference's Weber State is averaging 18.6 points and 7.2 assists per game through the first five games of his career. That’s impressive.
But it’s also proof that the NBA can pick and choose the league’s scorers, especially when shot selection isn’t demanded.
There’s a chance that NBA fans and analysts are kidding themselves a bit when indulging in Lillard’s rookie excitement.
Here's the best illustration of reality: Lillard is not a superstar like Kevin Durant or even Russell Westbrook. The better comparison is Marcus Thornton.
In six games this season, the 25-year-old Thornton is averaging 16.7 points per game, shooting 40.9 percent on 15.5 shots in 31.2 minutes per game. His assists numbers are lower at 2.3, but that’s a direct reflection of his role on the team—helping exemplify the point.
Lillard is being given the opportunity to be that exciting young scorer in Portland. The 22-year-old is averaging his 18.6 points by shooting 41.6 percent on 15.4 shots in 37.8 minutes per game.
Look familiar? The point is that a guy like Lillard isn’t proving himself to be any greater of a player than a Thornton type, who isn’t even starting for one of the league’s worst teams.
Lillard might not be the next superstar scorer, he might be fool’s gold—but he’s still the most impactful rookie thus far in an early 2012-13 season.
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