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Rookie of the year race article

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Article by Grantland's Zach Lowe (who has written some really good NBA articles this year btw)


Rookie of the Year

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

3. Tie: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets/Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

This should be a closer race, though I understand the dynamic behind why Lillard would win in a landslide right now. Lillard has taken an immediate leadership role on a so-so team and embraced the heavy burden that comes with it, while Kidd-Gilchrist plays about 10 fewer minutes per game as a secondary do-everything guy on a terrible team with no expectations. Lillard has scored more often, hit a couple of high-profile clutch shots (including a dagger in New York on Tuesday), used a significantly larger portion of his team’s possessions than MKG has in Charlotte, and generally looked the part of an above-average NBA starting point guard. (Note: As Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge and SI.com noted after Lillard’s buzzer-beater against the Hornets last month, Lillard has actually shot a low percentage in a tiny sample of clutch situations; he’s now 2-of-8 in the last 30 seconds of games in which the scoring margin is three or fewer points, per NBA.com.)

Kidd-Gilchrist, on the other hand, already rates as an above-average defender capable of guarding at least four positions on most nights. He’s shooting a hair better than 50 percent, getting to the line and dishing assists at a decent rate for a wing player, and posting a Player Efficiency Rating almost identical to Lillard’s. The Bobcats have been better on both ends with MKG on the floor, and he has flashed a surprisingly effective herky-jerky isolation game on offense; he can go around power forwards off the bounce and through/over smaller players after using an unpredictable move to turn a defender’s body just a bit out of position. He can’t shoot, which mucks up Charlotte’s spacing, but he has made up for it in other ways — including by posting one of the best offensive rebounding rates in the league for a perimeter player. And power forwards haven’t really hurt him in the post, either; opponents are just 10-of-28 against Kidd-Gilchrist on post-up plays, per Synergy. He fights hard for position against bigger guys, doesn’t bite on pump fakes, challenges shots, and has good timing swiping at the ball when he’s at a size disadvantage.

Lillard has earned front-runner status, but Kidd-Gilchrist deserves real consideration. Given their three-year age gap, it’s not surprising there are some folks around the league who would prefer to build around MKG for the long haul.

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I love having MKG, but I agree with Carolina chuck.... Lilliard is the only exciting thing about watching the trailblazer games (Unless he is having one of his down nights)

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I would also argue that Lillard has the advantage of having good floor spacing as well as the best scoring big in the game (other than maybe Love). Even with that said, yeah Lillard is the front runner for the award, and I'd also put Davis ahead of MKG. Don't get me wrong though... I am a huge MKG fan, but he has work to do.

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MKG was by far the safest pick at #2 and I honestly think he'll have a better career than Davis.

Lillard will win because he plays the 'sexiest' ROTY position.

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