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Ranking Damian Lillard's Rookie of the Year Season with Best of Last 20 Years

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMay 2, 2013

Ranking Damian Lillard's Rookie of the Year Season with Best of Last 20 Years

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    Damian Lillard is your unanimous 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year, a well-deserved honor for one of the promising young players in the league.

    When you look back over the past 20 years, we've seen a number of standout rookie seasons. In fact, almost everyone on this list has had a taste of NBA stardom.

    But we're not ranking the players here—we're ranking their individual rookie years.

20. Mike Miller, 2000-01

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    Mike Miller edged out Kenyon Martin for Rookie of the Year honors in 2001, though you wouldn't know it from the stats.

    Miller averaged 11.9 points on 40.7 percent shooting from downtown in his first year with Orlando.

    He was part of one of the worst draft classes over the past 20 years, with Martin going No. 1, followed by Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer.

    Miller is one of the few first-rounders that year to actually carve out a career, though he'll probably go down as one of the most underwhelming Rookie of the Year winners of all time.

19. Amar'e Stoudemire, 2002-03

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    Amar'e Stoudemire averaged 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in his Rookie of the Year campaign with the Suns.

    He just beat out Yao Ming, the No. 1 pick overall that year.

    Stoudemire entered the league as one of the most electric young athletes in the game after coming to the NBA straight out of high school. Dunking over defenders was his forte, but he soon added an offensive game to go with his explosive athleticism.

18. Emeka Okafor, 2004-05

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    Emeka Okafor beat out Ben Gordon for 2005 Rookie of the Year honors after averaging a 15 and 10 double-double in his first year as a pro.

    Okafor was sandwiched in the draft between Dwight Howard, who went No. 1, and Gordon, who went No. 3, but outproduced both playing for the expansion team from Charlotte.

    Ironically, the 15 points per game Okafor averaged as a rookie will end up being a career high. In terms of individual production, it went downhill for him after 2005.

    Hopefully a contender adds him to its roster as his career winds down, because Okafor hasn't played in many meaningful games throughout his nine-year career.

17. Brandon Roy, 2006-07

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    After going No. 6 in the 2006 NBA draft, Brandon Roy went on to average 16.8 points, 4.4 boards and four assists per game as the 2007 Rookie of the Year.

    He looked like a superstar from Day 1, which makes his career story even that more disappointing. Devastating knee injuries have destroyed Roy's basketball dreams before he ever peaked as a player.

    Though he only really lasted four full seasons in the league, Roy will at least have a prestigious trophy on his shelf to show for it.

16. Pau Gasol, 2001-02

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    Though it wasn't unanimous, Pau Gasol dominated the voting for the 2002 Rookie of the Year honors.

    Coming over from Spain, Gasol went No. 3 in the draft behind Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler in a class that saw more production come from the bottom portion of the first round than the top (No. 19 Zach Randolph, No. 25 Gerald Wallace, No. 28 Tony Parker, No. 30 Gilbert Arenas).

    Gasol averaged 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Grizzlies as a rookie, which is right around his career numbers to this day.

15. Derrick Rose, 2008-09

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    Derrick Rose's athleticism was what drove his appeal as a young player, and without a refined jumper or a developed point-guard skill set, he still managed to average 16.8 points and 6.3 assists as a rookie.

    The Bulls lucked out in 2008 after defying the odds and winning the lottery despite having a 1.7 percent chance of doing so. Rose essentially saved an organization that needed a new franchise player after the Michael Jordan era concluded.

    Chicago made the playoffs that year after totaling only 33 wins in 2007-08.

14. Vince Carter, 1999-00

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    Vince Carter averaged 18 points and 5.7 rebounds after being swapped for Antawn Jamison before either played an NBA game.

    Carter took the league by storm, performing high-flying dunks that fans hadn't seen before. He actually helped make the Raptors relevant before his time in Toronto wore thin.

    Still, he's one of the players you'll tell your grandchildren you got to see play in his prime. Do yourself a favor and YouTube some of his early years in the league if it's been a while.

13. Kyrie Irving, 2011-12

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    Kyrie Irving averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists on 39.9 shooting from three after only playing 11 games in his college career.

    The Cavs weren't very good last season, but Irving had established himself as a surefire star in the league. He blew away the field in the voting and is now considered one of the premier NBA point guards just one year later.

12. Tyreke Evans, 2009-10

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    I still refer to Tyreke Evans' rookie season as a sign of hope. He averaged 20 points, 5.3 boards and 5.8 assists in his first year as a King. He didn't just get worse over the past few years—the influx of guards and wings have cramped his style in Sacramento.

    Evans played the point his rookie year, and now he's been switching between the 2 and the 3. It's clear nobody knows how to use his talents, but there's no doubting how good he was in 2010.

    He edged Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings in the voting that year. And now just a few years later, he's not even in the same conversation with them.

11. Chris Paul, 2005-06

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    Chris Paul was the no-brainer choice for Rookie of the Year in 2006 after averaging 16 points, 7.8 assists and 2.2 steals with New Orleans.

    Paul's top competition for the award was Charlie Villaneuva, if you're looking for some perspective.

    The Hornets finished with a respectable 38 wins, considering David West was the only credible scorer in the lineup. It wouldn't be long before we started referring to Paul as one of the best point guards in the game.

10. Damian Lillard, 2012-13

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    Damian Lillard went from playing four years in the Big Sky to being the unanimous pick for NBA Rookie of the Year.

    He had a spectacular season for Portland, starting all 82 games and averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists per game. Lillard also knocked down 185 three-pointers, good for fifth in the NBA.

    Unfortunately, Portland struggled down the stretch and missed out on the playoffs, but Lillard gets an A for his overall body of work.

    He brings a sense of maturity and leadership that the NBA quarterback position requires. I'm expecting Lillard to build off this year, improve as a facilitator and climb to the next tier with some of the top point guards in the game.

9. Elton Brand, 2000-01

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    Elton Brand shared Rookie of the Year honors with Steve Francis, though Brand's individual season takes the cake.

    Fresh off winning a national championship at Duke, Brand averaged 20.1 points and 10 boards as a rookie, a feat that some of the greatest big men in the game never accomplished. Brand was evidence that you don't need to play above the rim in order to man the glass and paint.

    Stevie Francis averaged 18 points, 6.6 assists and 5.3 boards as a rookie that year, which really just makes you sad when you think about the rest of his career.

8. Damon Stoudamire, 1995-96

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    Damon Stoudamire is one of the forgotten studs of the '90s who went No. 7 overall to the expansion team known as the Toronto Raptors.

    As a rookie, Stoudamire put up monster numbers of 19 points and 9.3 assists per game. He quickly became known as Mighty Mouse and should be considered one of the role models for young point guards stuck with under-six-foot labels.

    Stoudamire beat out the first pick overall, Joe Smith, and Portland's Arvydas Sabonis to win the award.

    And for the record, a Damon Stoudamire throwback purple Raptor jersey should be considered a treasure.

7. Chris Webber, 1993-94

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    The No. 1 overall pick in 1994, Chris Webber edged out Penny Hardaway as the NBA Rookie of the Year, the man he was traded for following the draft.

    Webber had made a ton of noise at Michigan the previous two seasons and averaged 17.5 points and nine boards in his first year as a pro. He helped get the Warriors back to the playoffs before his relationship with coach Don Nelson deteriorated and he was traded to the Bullets.

    You can say what you want about Webber's NBA attitude, but you can't knock the talent. He was a stud as a rookie and remained one throughout his 15-year career.

6. Kevin Durant, 2007-08

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    After averaging nearly 26 points in college and sporting a career 26.6 average in the pros, Kevin Durant only averaged a measly 20 points as a rookie.

    What gives?

    Durant somehow managed to drop 20 a game on only 28.8 percent shooting from downtown, the only year he's ever shot less than 35 percent from behind the arc.

    He quickly figured out this "shooting" thing and has averaged at least 25 points per game in every year since his rookie season.

    Al Horford was No. 2 in voting that year, but not really. There was only one possible choice for Rookie of the Year in 2008, and that was K.D.

5. Grant Hill, 1994-95

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    Remember the good old days when Grant Hill was fresh, healthy and dominant? This guy had Hall of Fame written all over him until his ankles fell apart like an overstuffed hard-shell taco.

    Hill shared the Rookie of the Year award with Jason Kidd, though Hill won the heads-up battle. He averaged 19.9 points, 6.4 boards, five assists and 1.8 steals per game in his first year as a Piston.

    He was your classic do-it-all wing who can score, pass and defend. And unfortunately, Hill only had a few years to practice his trade at a high level.

4. LeBron James, 2003-04

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    LeBron James beat out Carmelo Anthony in a two-man race for the 2004 Rookie of the Year.

    Entering his first pro season with unprecedented hype, James exceeded expectations to average 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

    And that was the last time he averaged fewer than 27 points.

    We've seen better rookie years, but none under the type of microscope that James' season was under.

3. Allen Iverson, 1996-97

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    Allen Iverson might have had one of the greenest lights of any rookie over the past 20 years. In his first year in the league, Iverson took nearly 20 shots per game, so it's a good thing he averaged 23.5 points.

    He averaged 25 a game as a sophomore at Georgetown, so his volume scoring at the NBA level shouldn't have come as a surprise.

    Iverson squeaked out the Rookie of the Year vote over Stephon Marbury. As of 2013, both of these guys have seen better days.

2. Blake Griffin, 2010-11

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    After missing his first year with a knee injury, Blake Griffin was eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2011, much to the chagrin of the rookies who got drafted that summer.

    Griffin is one of only a few players to be named Rookie of the Year by unanimous vote. He averaged 22.5 points and 12 rebounds, showcasing a new level of athleticism that captivated NBA fans.

    Though he was the first pick in the 2009 draft, I'm not sure anyone predicted how quickly Griffin would dominate. He's helped make the Clippers an actual draw and probably had something to do with Chris Paul signing off on a trade to L.A.

1. Tim Duncan, 1997-98

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    There was never an adjustment period for Tim Duncan. And as of 2013, there hasn't been much of a regression stage, either.

    As a rookie with San Antonio, Duncan averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. He was an MVP candidate and would have been a unanimous Rookie of the Year pick had someone not given Keith Van Horn a vote.

    Amazingly, Duncan looks like the same guy today that he was 15 years ago.

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