Damian Lillard Earns Gary Payton's Rookie of the Year Endorsement

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Damian Lillard Earns Gary Payton's Rookie of the Year Endorsement
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

According to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports, NBA legend Gary Payton recently sounded off on the current state of the NBA. "The Glove" compared his era to the present and offered his opinion on what the differences may be.

Perhaps most important of all, Payton named Damian Lillard as his Rookie of the Year.

“I like Damian Lillard because he’s from Oakland, California, and he’s a phenomenal basketball player,” Payton said. “He should be the rookie of the year, he’s playing very well right now for Portland and I love his game."

For the record, Payton and Lillard are both clients under Goodwin Sports Management.

With that being said, it would be difficult to debate Payton's claims at this stage of the season. Lillard is playing outstanding basketball and producing at an award-worthy level.

As of January 18, 2013, Lillard is averaging 18.1 points and 6.5 assists per game. Lillard leads all first year players in both categories.

This is a major reason why the Weber State alum won the Rookie of the Month award both in November and December.

Furthermore, Lillard ranks third among rookies in steals and second among rookie guards in rebounding. Lillard also leads first-year players in three-point field goals and is sixth in three-point field goal percentage.

He also ranks first among rookies in free-throw attempts with 143 and is shooting a whopping 82.5 percent from the line.

To back up Payton's claims, the numbers are certainly there. Lillard is producing at a Rookie of the Year level and has led the Portland Trail Blazers to a record of 20-19.

Is Lillard your Rookie of the Year? Either way, hit the comments section and let us know!

Maxwell Ogden is a B/R Featured Columnist covering the NBA.

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