Portland Trail Blazers: Comparing Damian Lillard to Brandon Roy's Rookie Year

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Portland Trail Blazers: Comparing Damian Lillard to Brandon Roy's Rookie Year
Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

The legend of former Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy will never be forgotten by fans of the recent era.

Roy, who had five standout seasons with the Blazers, was forced to retire two years ago due to ongoing knee issues before making a comeback this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Friday, the former three-time All-Star returns to play in the Rose Garden for the first time since the 2011 NBA playoffs as the Blazers host Minnesota at 7 p.m. PT. (Edited: Roy will not return with an upcoming knee surgery—his seventh of his career, via Jason Quick of The Oregonian on Twitter).

Six years after Roy debuted in the NBA, Portland has seen the emergence of another guard looking to make his mark with Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard.

The similarities between the two are uncanny.

Both were 22 years old when they began their rookie years and were seen as saviors to help turn the franchise around.

They were each the No. 6 picks in their respective drafts. After nine games, Portland currently has a 4-5 record. In 2006-07, the Blazers also started the season 4-5 with Roy in the lineup.

Roy will never be forgotten by fans for his contributions to the franchise, but how did his rookie campaign compare to Lillard's first nine games?

Let's take a look by comparing the two.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Brandon Roy won the Rookie of the Year during the 2006-07 season.

 

Stat lines

Roy: 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists (57 games in 2006-07)

Lillard: 19.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists (9 games in 2012-13)

Roy missed 20 games early in the season due to an ongoing heel issue—a precursor to an injury-riddled career.

He was not a high-volume scorer, scoring at least 20 points in a game just 16 times in 2006-07.

Compare that to Lillard, who has already scored at least 20 points in six of his first nine career games to become the first player to do that in 15 years since former MVP Allen Iverson in 1996 (via Trail Blazers PR on Twitter).

Lillard has been a much better distributor, having recorded at least nine assists in three games so far. Roy totaled three games with at least nine assists in 2006-07.

Roy, however, was a better rebounder with his size (6'6") compared to Lillard's (6'3").

 

Intangibles

Brandon Roy made several clutch plays during his rookie year in 2006-07.

It's hard to measure the impact Roy had with just numbers in crunch time.

He was the definition of clutch, even for a rookie (video on right). Lillard, however, is also cementing himself as a player who is not afraid to take the big shot.

Lillard was instrumental down the stretch in both victories over the Houston Rockets this season. He also had 23 points and 11 assists in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the season opener.

Both have a maturity factor to their games, uncommonly seen in rookies. While Roy did it throughout his rookie year and career when healthy, Lillard has proven he is on his way to be at that level.

 

What Others Have Said

If you read quotes made by players and coaches about Roy and Lillard, they sound awfully similar.

In 2006-07, Roy received high praise from the league's best when he won the Rookie of the Year award.

"I love his game. He's so smooth and carefree," Denver's Carmelo Anthony said (via the Associated Press on ESPN.com). "It seems like he never turns the ball over. He sure doesn't seem like a rookie in this league. He's going to be The One in Portland."

Damian Lillard had his Brandon Roy-esque performance against Houston last Friday with clutch plays down the stretch.

Sounds like something someone would say about Lillard today.

Earlier this year, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told Jason Quick of The Oregonian that Lillard was the early favorite for Rookie of the Year:

He’s going to have that much impact on their team. Plus, point guards have the ball more, so they are going to feature him even more. But I’m really impressed with his feel for the game. He has an air of confidence, and he does a really nice job involving his teammates.

 

Conclusion

Roy's play will be remembered for a long time by those fans who watched him.

But Lillard certainly is making fans feel relieved after questions arose about how the team would replace the Roy of old.

The start to Lillard's NBA career has definitely had a bigger impact than Roy's first nine games.

But Brandon Roy eventually proved nightly to be a legit No. 1 option and franchise player in the NBA. Lillard has shown the ability to carry a team on his back, and he certainly has the potential to be as good—or even better—than what we expected out of Roy.

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