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This season’s crop of rookies has had a rough go of it for the most part so far. A combination of injuries, lack of playing time and stints in the NBA Development League has hindered the chances some rookies have of winning individual hardware at season’s end.
In addition to that, much-hyped players like Bradley Beal and Jonas Valanciunas simply have not put up the numbers expected of them. Also, Anthony Davis, who was seen by most as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award as the No. 1 overall pick this year, has spent the majority of the season sidelined due to injury.
Damian Lillard, meanwhile, has put up fantastic numbers.
The 22-year-old rookie has had his share of ups and downs thus far. He’s shooting just 42.7 percent from the field and turning the ball over 3.3 times per game, which is more turnovers than Portland pariah Raymond Felton averaged last season (2.8).
Even though there’s still some obvious room for improvement, Lillard is averaging 19.1 points, 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. According to ESPN Stats and Information, before Portland's Dec. 3 contest, the only other NBA rookies to average at least 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game are Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Damon Stoudamire and Steve Francis. That’s certainly not bad company.
In addition to that, as of Dec. 3, Lillard has had five games with at least 20 points and nine assists, the most such games in the entire NBA, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
As a Lillard fantasy owner, I’d like to see him cut down on those 6-for-21 or 2-for-13 shooting nights. But as with all rookies, there are sure to be some growing pains.
Anyway, with Davis sidelined due to injury, Lillard has taken command as the early front-runner for Rookie of the Year. He appears poised to keep a hold on that position unless another rookie really steps it up.
Other Candidates: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler (who would have thought that Singler would be Detroit’s best rookie so far over Andre Drummond?)