Zach Lowe of Grantland.com selects Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard over New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal as his 2013 Rookie of the Year.
A few pundits have laid out the case for Davis over Lillard, citing Davis's superior efficiency stats and somewhat correctly (at least on the surface) painting Lillard as a "meh" efficiency guy piling up numbers simply because he's getting a ton of minutes on a bad team.
But that's sort of the point: Lillard has put up solid offensive numbers while taking on a giant burden for a team with no bench, a limited starting center, and two solid wing players both hamstrung by injuries during the latter stages of the season. And Lillard is the engine, or at least the co-engine, in creating looks for himself and his teammates; Davis is mostly an off-ball threat who needs people to find him at the right times for lob dunks and short jumpers off pin-down screens.
Lillard has been mostly terrible on defense, as most rookies are. He struggles badly to navigate screens, on both high pick-and-rolls and typical NBA off-ball actions. He showed flashes of improvement for short stretches, but nothing sustained. The learning curve was just about as steep for Davis, who looked almost literally as if he were on skates for the first two months of the season. He bit on pump fakes, mistimed his lunging help on pick-and-roll coverages, and had trouble controlling his momentum when he had to change directions, recover to shooters, and challenge shots in the lane. He looked borderline unstable.
Lowe gave Blazers F/C J.J. Hickson the third slot for Most Improved Player, behind Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders and New Orleans Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez.
I selected Lillard as my 2013 Rookie of the Year in an SI.com post on the subject here.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter