A panel of SI.com writers unanimously selected Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard as the first half Rookie of the Year.
Lillard has been a revelation while driving the surprising Trail Blazers into playoff contention. All of a sudden LaMarcus Aldridge has a fellow star to help him lead the Blazers into post-Greg Oden/Brandon Roy contention. Lillard and New Orleans' Davis are the two instant stars of this class, and they may yet engage in a terrific ROY race as long as Davis stays healthy. Charlotte's Kidd-Gilchrist has been the steadiest (and hardest-working player) of the other rookies, with a ready-made talent for producing across the board.
This race will get closer, as Davis distances himself from the ankle injury that hampered his first half, but it will be hard to catch Lillard. Most rookie point guards are tantalizing in some areas, terrible in others, but after four years at Weber State, Lillard has few holes in his offensive game. He is rejuvenating the Blazers by scoring like a lead guard, setting up Aldridge on pick-and-rolls and sinking the late-game shots that so many rookies are reluctant to take.
How many writers desperately wanted to put Lillard -- a monster scorer in college who was already adept at the pick-and-roll -- at the top of their preseason Rookie of the Year ballot, only to be scared off by the looming presence of Davis? I did. Lillard is a dynamic scoring point guard with the savvy under pressure that belies his experience. The Wizards have a very good player in Beal, but this award is Lillard's to lose.
Thanks to Berkeley in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter