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Breaking down Lillard's historic rookie season
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The playoffs ... well they're not for Damian Lillard. At least not yet.

But who needs that when you're the fourth unanimous Rookie of the Year in NBA history?

Unlike the New York Knicks who wore black to Wednesday's Game 5 against the Celtics, Lillard showed up to his celebratory press conference dressed in a gray sports jacket.

Something gave me the impression that this won't be the last time we see Lillard at the podium accepting an award.

The 22-year-old out of Weber State had a rookie season for the ages. Here's a quick look at some of his accomplishments.

- He won Western Conference Rookie of the Month EVERY month of the 2012-13 season. He's just the third player to do that in the last decade.

- He led all rookies with 6.5 apg. The next highest assist average among rookies this season? Minnesota's Alexey Shved with 3.7 assists per contest.

- Lillard (38.6 mpg) was one of just two rookies to average more than 30 minutes per game in 2012-13. Washington's Bradley Beal was a distant second at 31.2 mpg.

- Lillard drilled 185 three-pointers this season. That's 19 more than Stephen Curry made when he set the rookie record in that statistic back in 2009-10.

- The Portland guard knocked down 271 free throws this season. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis was second with 169.

- Lillard's 84.4 percent success rate from the stripe was second-best among first year players. New Orleans guard Brian Roberts led the league at 90.9 percent.

- Lillard (19.0 ppg) won the rookie scoring title in a landslide. Cleveland's Dion Waiters (14.7 ppg) was the only rookie besides Lillard to average more than 14 ppg.

- Lillard suited up for every single game of the 2012-13 campaign. He led all NBA players this season in minutes played (3,167).

That's a pretty powerful resume. But where does Lillard rank among the all- time greats?

Dr. James Naismith invented the sport of basketball quite a long time ago so for brevity's sake, we'll narrow it down to the last 20 years.

Lillard has plenty of competition in the race for rookie immortality. Seven of the last 21 Rookie of the Year recipients averaged 20 points or more during their first season. Obviously, Lillard was not one of them.

The most prolific scorer during that stretch has been Allen Iverson. His 23.5 ppg average in his first year with the Sixers is noticeably higher than the scoring average Lillard produced for Portland in 2012-13.

Five Rookie of the Year winners in the last two decades have eclipsed the 6.5 apg average Lillard tallied this season. Among them are Damon Stoudamire (9.5 apg for Toronto in 1995-96), Jason Kidd (7.7 dimes a game in 1994-95) and Chris Paul (7.8 apg for the Hornets in 2005-06). Steve Francis barely edged out Lillard by averaging 6.6 apg as co-Rookie of the Year in 1999-00.

Lillard's 42.9 percent field goal percentage is actually one of the worst we've seen by a Rookie of the Year in the last 20 seasons. Only LeBron James (41.7 percent), Stoudamire (42.6), Kidd (38.5) and Iverson (40.1) shot for a lower percentage during their R.O.Y. campaigns.

Certainly, we have to consider the degree of difficulty when taking these percentages into account. Tim Duncan hit nearly 55 percent of his shots as a rookie in 1997-98, but almost all of those came from inside the paint. Roughly 39 percent of Lillard's field goal attempts this season came from three-point distance.

And of course, we all know that Lillard has been very successful from that area of the floor. His 36.8 conversion rate on three-pointers this season is the fifth-highest by a Rookie of the Year in the last 20 seasons. Mike Miller is the only Rookie of the Year to shoot better than 40 percent from deep over that span of time.

Lillard is in a particularly elite class when it comes to free throw shooting. Durant (87.3 percent), Paul (84.7) and Kyrie Irving (87.2) are the only R.O.Y.'s who have been more accurate from the charity stripe.

Not only did Lillard play an exhausting 38.6 mpg this season (fifth-highest among Rookie of the Years since 1994-95), but he also heaved up 15.7 field goal attempts per game. That's the eighth-highest average we've seen in the last 20 seasons.

In past articles, I've referenced the "blow-up factor." Every position has a unique criteria when determining what constitutes a "blow-up." For point guards, the threshold is typically either 30 points or 10 assists.

Lillard's point total crossed into 30-point territory on five occasions this season while nine of his appearances resulted in 10 or more assists. Lillard's high water marks were 38 points (April 10th against the Lakers) and 12 assists (February 10th versus the Magic).

Those numbers compare pretty favorably to some of the other Rookie of the Year winners we've seen in recent seasons. Only six of the last 21 R.O.Y.'s have contributed more 30-point games than Lillard while six have generated more games with double-digit assists.

Detractors will point out that Lillard failed to lead the Trail Blazers into the postseason.

I wouldn't hold that against him. Very few Rookie of the Year winners have gone on to the postseason. In fact, since 1994-95, only four have made it to the playoffs in their first season (Miller, Duncan, Derrick Rose and Amare Stoudemire). Three of the four (Miller, Stoudemire and Rose) saw their teams get bounced in the first round.

Lillard's 2012-13 season was nothing short of a masterpiece. There is no Sophomore of the Year award but they do have a little thing called the postseason. Maybe a trip to the playoffs can be Lillard's reward in 2014.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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