There is always talk about the so called "rookie wall" that these high profile rookies hit. For the most part I agree with the theory and see rookies hit a point in the season where it looks like their progress stalls out. But here in Portland we are seeing a special rookie that hasn't hit the supposed wall.
Every basketball fan has their own theory as to why the rookie wall occurs. One of the most subscribed to theories is that the NBA season is so much longer and more grueling than a college season. The rookies can wear out and become less productive because of the draining schedule. That is why after the first season, a lot of the rookies come back stronger the next year; they learn how to condition and improve themselves leading into the next 82 game dockett.
Damian Lillard is a special rookie. While rookies such as Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal have seemingly hit the wall, Lillard appears unstoppable. Lillard has now won all four Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards. It is only a matter of time before he is crowned rookie of the year. His stats have continued to improve from month to month and his game is becoming more and more well-rounded.
Why is Lillard a special case? How has he side stepped the rookie wall?
I would argue that Lillard has reached this level of consistent dominance as a rookie because of the duration of his college career. There has been a lot of talk and attention given to the "1-and-done" college basketball players. The majority of dominant college basketball players only last one year at their respective schools. Lillard, however, played four seasons at Weber State. He was never considered one of the top prospects and even after his senior season, in which he led the country in scoring, he was only seen as a mid to late first-round draft pick. With an impressive combine and stellar workouts, he skyrocketed into the Trail Blazers’ lap at the 6th pick in the draft.
In his four years at Weber State, Lillard played in 104 games and averaged 18.6 points per game. In his senior year, he averaged 24.5 ppg, 4 apg and 5 rpg. which led him to being the Big Sky Player of the Year for the second time (he also won it as a sophomore.)
Having so much basketball under his belt before he hit the NBA gave Lillard a much stronger resume and foundation on which he is building his game. A lot of NBA rookies are 18, 19, 20 years old and still growing into their bodies, Lillard, on the other hand, was 22 when he embarked on his NBA career. Instead of having one or two college basketball seasons under his belt, he had four. All of these things factor into the quick emergence of the new franchise point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.
I'm not trying to jinx him or anything but he sure has been a fun rookie to watch. Lillard establishes a deep sense of hope in this franchise that hasn't been around since our last Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy.
Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett