If there were ever a doubt for who the early "Rookie of the Year" prospect would be in a young NBA Season, then it should start and end with the starting point guard for the Portland Trailblazers, Damian Lillard.
With an explosive start to his rookie season (averaging 18.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.14 steals-per-game) Lillard has become one of the best guards in the NBA, and he proved it against the Spurs. Even though he's just a rookie, he's made a strong impact on the Blazers rotation playing more than 30 minutes per game. To top it off, he's leading all rookies in scoring and assist totals to begin the season.
The Portland Trailblazers handed the San Antonio Spurs their second straight loss with a 98-90 victory Thursday night at the Rose Garden. Lillard had a career-high 29 points in the outing and it was marked as the highest scoring game any rookie has had all season. He also finished with seven rebounds & six assists while shooting 11-for-22 from the field.
BLAZERS WIN!! BLAZERS WIN!! Final in the Rose Garden: Trail Blazers 98, Spurs 90. @dame_lillard with a new career high 29 points!
— Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers) December 14, 2012
After falling to the Spurs earlier in the season, Lillard played more confidently against a stronger Spurs team that has only lost four times on the road, two times coming in the same week. Additionally, in two games against San Antonio, Lillard has been playing terrific basketball (averaging 20 points & 6 assists).
In the last five games, Lillard has exploded for 19.4 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 83.3 percent from the free-throw line and totaling more than 40 minutes per contest to give the Trailblazers a much needed boost to their struggling season.
The difference between Lillard and other rookies is that there was no surprise in his scoring ability after leading the NCAA in scoring at Weber State (25.8 ppg), however, the main issue was how he would adjust to playing faster paced basketball in the NBA. After 22 games in the best basketball league in the world, Lillard has proved that there is no ceiling on his potential.
Since entering the league, Lillard has drawn many comparisons to a younger Chauncey Billups (currently with the LA Clippers) in the way he strategically has attacked defenses off of the pick-and-roll and his facial demeanor. Even though Lillard is a very close mold to Billups in play style, height, and weight, he isn't as good as a 2004 NBA Champion, Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. But the upside is that he has all the time to become an All-Star guard.
The 6-foot-3, 195 lb, Oakland native is a hard-nosed guard that is a perfect example of what city basketball continues to produce, the best guards in the country.
Dame Lillard is the "Real Deal."