Is Damian Lillard Having a Better Inaugural Season Than Kyrie Irving's 2012?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 15:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers and Team Shaq smiles in the first half in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge 2013 part of the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Toyota Center on February 15, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Damian Lillard's rookie campaign is likely going to end with a Rookie of the Year Award and a ton of pride for the folks back at Weber State, but is he having a year comparable to, or even better than, that of Kyrie Irving's last year?

Both players came into the league with doubts. They were incredibly different doubts, but doubts nonetheless.

Irving was doubted because of the few games that he played in college thanks to the foot injury that held him out for the majority of the year.

Lillard was doubted because of the level of competition that he played against in the Big Sky Conference.

Both players similarly tore apart the competition while in college, and both players similarly took the league by storm once they wriggled their way into the NBA, the same way that they draw a defense's attention as they wriggle their way into the lane.

Irving's rookie campaign was a breath of fresh air after a supposedly weak draft class (which has since been proven false).

He hit his first game-winning shot a little over a month into his career after an eight-point fourth quarter yielded a game-winning layup against the Boston Celtics.

Irving's rookie season was a lot more up than down, but his nicks and bruises here and there forced him out of a handful of games, while his quality of teammates kept their win total low.

His rookie year was historic. The only other rookies had averaged 18 points and five assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor in the history of the league include Alvan Adams, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan.

That's a hell of a list of guys with whom to be talked about.

Looking at Lillard's season in comparison is quite interesting. They've both taken a permanent marker and written their names on the Rookie of the Year Award in capital letters, but they've done it in very different ways.

Lillard is a machine of a point guard, over-topping Irving in both scoring and assists, but he plays on a different team with a different style.

While the bare-bones stats are similar, the efficiency that Irving puts into his game makes him visibly superior to Lillard.

Irving threw together shooting percentages of 47-40-87 (field goal, three point, free throw), while Lillard is closer to 43-35-86.

Meanwhile, Lillard has the advantage of playing alongside the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, while Irving's best scoring options were Antawn Jamison and Alonzo Gee.

The 2012 incarnation of the Cavaliers shot an anemic 41.42 percent without Irving's shooting stats included, while Lillard's Trail Blazers are shooting 45.3 percent without Lillard's numbers.

It seems that while Lillard has been racking up an impressive number of assists, a lot of credit has to be given to his teammates for making their shots, while we should endlessly deride Irving's 2012 teammates for being utterly inept.

Moving forward we'll be able to see which player does more for their team, as they're both in position to rise with a promising young squad.

In the end, however, it seems as if Irving's efficiency and other-worldly ability to score in the fourth quarter will win out over Lillard's impressive ascent.