Matt Moore of CBSSports.com writes that he's disappointed by this year's Rookie of the Year race, in part because Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard hasn't been "phenomenal."
There's one player who's been great-not-phenomenal in Damian Lillard, but who is clearly and decidedly above everyone else, with very little competition.
There's no way to take what I said above and not feel slighted if you're a Blazers fan. I basically said he's one of the few rookies to not set the bed on fire. Lillard has been great for expectations. He's led the Blazers to a stunningly good start and provided big moment after big moment for them late in games.
But it should be noted that Lillard's numbers (17 points on 14.6 shots per 36 minutes, 6 assists and 2.8 turnovers per 36) suggest "great" not "All-Star." PER's a terrible metric to use for point guards, because it values volume shooting and rebounding, so we'll let his 15.7 mark slide there. His 41.6 percent shooting from the floor and good-not-great 34 percent from the arc isn't much to write home about, either.
Lillard's going to win the award, going away, because he's impressed scouts and writers, because he's established himself as the 1A to LaMarcus Aldridge, and because of the problems with the other candidates. But there are very specific limitations to his game at this level, and whether he's able to sustain this production and effectiveness overtime is more of a question than it is with most runaway rookie of the year winners.
So we're left with a race that very much seems over with two months to go, despite a concerning curve for Lillard, due to a race that's been handicapped by injury and context. Lillard deserves it and it's not close, and he's had a remarkable season. It just hasn't been the phenomenal race we expected from a draft so well hyped.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter