We ran a weekly Rookie Rankings this season, and while the Rookie of the Year was decided sometime before the All-Star break, it remained to be seen who would join Portland’s Damian Lillard among the NBA’s top five rookies.
Bryant is a student of the game who understands its history and normally is not given to hyperbole. So when he offers an evaluation of an opponent – most of whom he holds in disdain – it should not be taken with a grain of salt.
And here’s what he had to say about Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard.
“He’s spectacular … really fantastic,” Bryant said. “A lot of players get hot, but he’s got the moves, patience, intelligence, the balance on his jumpers. He’s the real deal.”
For virtually the entire season, Lillard has led all rookies in scoring, assists and free throws. But those are not his most impressive numbers, either.
As this version of our Rookie Rankings is published, Lillard leads in minutes played.
Not all rookies. All players.
Early next week, Rookies of the Month for March will be handed out. It is possible that Anthony Davis could end Damian Lillard’s stranglehold on the Western Conference honor, while the East will be a toss-up between Moe Harkless and Jonas Valanciunas.
Davis, Harkless and Valanciunas have yet to win the award. But as we approach the season’s final month, it is the time where many previously unheralded rookies make a name for themselves.
Last year, Atlanta’s Ivan Johnson broke through in the East as Kyrie Irving spent most of April on the sidelines. Ditto Denver’s Kenneth Faried after Ricky Rubio and Isaiah Thomas shared the first three West awards.
Do you know what does spook the 19-year-old rookie forward of the Orlando Magic? Haunted hotels.
Last weekend, Harkless and his Magic teammates made a trip to Oklahoma City and stayed in the Skirvin Hilton, which is supposedly haunted. After his first stay there, Harkless may be a believer.