With a 19-15 record, and currently the 8-seed in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises. It’s been even more surprising that a first-year point guard has been their catalyst.
A year ago, it’s doubtful that LeBron James even knew who Damian Lillard was. But a day before his Heat team takes on the Blazers in a national showdown, James named Lillard his Rookie of the Year, and it’s not hard to see why.
For Portland, it seems as though a possession never goes by without the rookie guard and his boundless energy making their mark. Watching Lillard weave in and out of traffic to unfurl one of his silky-smooth jumpers has been a common sight, and with very little punch from the team’s bench, he and his fellow starters have shouldered the bulk of the scoring load. That burden has forced Lillard to be more of a scorer than a distributor in this first season, but his low assist rate isn’t a product of lacking skill.