The Rookie of the Year Award race this year appears to be a two-man race for the time being with Damian Lillard jumping out to an early start and Anthony Davis looking nothing short of a No. 1 overall pick in every game he's played in so far.
Coming into the year, Davis was the obvious leader being the top overall pick, but Lillard was winning with the hype machine behind him every step of the way.
Thankfully both guys have lived up to the hype so far this season, Lillard transforming his Portland Trail Blazers team into a potential playoff contender, and Davis looking every inch the revolutionary basketball player that he was billed to be.
Lillard's backers pointed to his offensive prowess as the main reason he would be able to hang with Davis, and Davis' lack thereof.
You see, Davis' most obvious strength coming into the season was his defense, his ability to block shots and pull down rebounds regardless of who was around him. The argument was that while his defense would be impressive, defensive stats don't usually wow voters, and Lillard's ability to score would put him ahead of Davis, at least by a bit.
The problem in that logic is that it was all based on Davis' offense at Kentucky, which was underutilized at best. He averaged only 14.2 points, but he did so on a team that featured four eventual first-round picks and two second-round picks. If anything, Davis' ability to touch the ball enough to score 14 points per game was impressive on its own.
Two games into the season Davis suffered a concussion, and it made it look like the only thing that could keep Davis from winning the award this season would be an injury.
Davis spent his first game in the league scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds against the Spurs—an impressive start against Tim Duncan, the guy he was compared to all summer long. His second game started off equally impressive with eight points, six rebounds and two blocks against Utah, but an elbow to the head gave the big fellow a concussion.
He took baby steps as the league's concussion policy kept him out of a few games before he was cleared to play against the Bobcats. And oh boy did he ever play against the Bobcats.
Davis came in and head coach Monty Williams did nothing to hold him back. The result was a look into what Davis can do against the league's bottom-feeders. He put up 23 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and then added five blocks.
The most impressive part wasn't that he had five blocks, but rather that he had five nonchalant blocks. It wasn't a game in which he was insanely active and all over the place, but just because he can instinctively play defense.
What will keep Davis out in front all season long (unless an injury derails him) is the fact that the hype is behind his defense, so he's already got the benefit of the doubt even if he doesn't put up huge blocks numbers. Because of that, his defense is going to be a given, and anything more than double-digit scoring is going to be seen as him coming out and proclaiming his arrival as a legitimate NBA big man.
Let's take a look at Lillard on the other side of the coin. Coming into the season the only way Lillard could win the award would be if he put up historically huge offensive numbers for a rookie. Well past 15 points per game and big assist numbers would be necessary. For the most part Lillard has done that. He's averaging 19 points and seven assists per game so far.
The biggest problem is that we've seen the lows that Lillard can hit when his shots aren't falling. Against Dallas Lillard put up 13 points, but he did it on 13 shots, making just two of them. That game saw him take eight three-pointers, making just one of them.
Davis got a head start out of the gate with the hype around him, and he's only extending the lead by playing the way he's playing. Once we see a bad game from Davis we'll be able to tell what faults he may have, but as of right now the only thing he can't seem to do is hit three-pointers.
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