When it came down to voting for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year after the 2012-13 season, the clear choice was Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. In his first season the guard averaged 19 points, 6.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 38.6 minutes per game, in addition to having a handful of big-time moments to hang his hat on.
As Lillard entered his second season with the Blazers, though, many people wondered what was next for Lillard. Though he was productive as a rookie, there were worries that there could be a backlash against him, largely based on his lack of defense and his inefficiency on the offensive end of the floor, shooting just 42.9 percent on the year last season.
We are only three games into the 2013-14 season, but Lillard is already showing signs of improvement, notably with his efficiency. Through three games he’s averaging 25 points, 5.3 assists and five rebounds per game while, most importantly, shooting 46.9 percent. He’s also shot above that 42.9 percent mark in every game. It’s more than just the numbers that back up what Lillard’s been doing, though.
Lillard’s shot-selection seems to have improved early on. Perhaps it’s another year of growth and a year of assessing the league under his belt, but Lillard appears to be forcing his own offensive game less and is playing to the spaces and breaks that defenses are giving him. Moreover, Lillard is attacking the rim well and getting to the line more often. He got to the free-throw line 3.9 times per game last season, but has improved that to 6.3 times per game in the early going of this year.
There are still 79 games left to play for Lillard and the Blazers, meaning that this could be a mirage and those worries coming into the season could still be validated. Early on, though, Lillard looks like he’s set to avoid a sophomore slump in the NBA and is on track to only strengthening an already relatively bright star.