After Kentucky won the NCAA Tournament last spring, it was unanimous that Anthony Davis would be selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. In June, when the New Orleans Hornets used their top draft pick to get the award-laden center, everyone assumed he would be Rookie of the Year. Before the season, Anthony Davis was the most talked about rookie, and it was as if there was no competition for the award. In the first few weeks of the NBA season however, a few rookies have shown that they can challenge Davis for the Rookie of the Year Award, and one has even surpassed him.
Damian Lillard has Trail Blazer fans saying Anthony who? The point guard out of Weber State has shown that he’s ready to be a star now. Lillard is the rookie leader for both points per game (19) and assists per game (6.1). The Portland point guard also joined Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players with 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debut. That’s pretty good company for a young point guard. Also to Lillard’s credit is the Trail Blazers have started 5-5 and they’re 8th in ppg. The Trail Blazers give Lillard a better core than many of the other Rookie of the Year hopefuls but he has taken full advantage of it. As players like Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldrige gain more chemistry with their rookie point guard, Lillard’s upside only grows. Lillard has not only made a huge splash in Portland, but the whole NBA, and he’s become the early favorite now for Rookie of the Year.
Of course, right on his tail is the preseason favorite, Anthony Davis. Davis has an some injury trouble early this year but his 16 ppg and 8.3 rpg are right around what people expected from him. He’s already had 2 double doubles this season but his limited playing time early is what puts him in second place. The Hornets and Anthony Davis have also struggled winning early on which works against his Rookie of the Year recognition.
Coming in at third is Davis’ former teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. While not considered a great scorer, Kidd-Gilchrist does have 11.7 ppg and his rebounding is great for a small forward with 7.2. Kidd-Gilchrist was drafted second because of his defense and he’s shown that so far in the NBA. After the edition of Kidd-Gilchrist, the Bobcats have improved to 20th in defense from last years 27th and a noticeable 7th in rebounds after last years 29th. Kidd-Gilchrist as had an immediate effect on improving this Bobcats team. Similar to Luol Deng, who doesn’t put up amazing numbers but is instrumental in almost every Bulls win, Kidd-Gilchrist as helped turn around the worst team in NBA history and they’ve started out 5-4.
The race for Rookie of the Year is much closer than originally imagined in the preseason. Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all fighting near the top. There’s also a slew of rookies behind them that could potentially make some big moves: Washington’s Bradley Beal, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, and Minnesota’s Alexey Shved. Anthony Davis no longer looks like a lock to lead the rookies this year, but that’s why you play the games.