Portland Trail Blazers: Can Damian Lillard Challenge Anthony Davis for ROY?

Ryan Bothmann@tripleCfanSenior Analyst IINovember 1, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 12:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the preseason NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on October 12, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers 104-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the performance that Anthony Davis gave at Kentucky last season, he has basically been handed the Rookie of the Year award coming into this season—and why not? Davis dominated at the collegiate ranks and helped lead a star-studded group of freshmen to the national title.

The impact that Anthony Davis has on the defensive end, along with his ability to score down low and grab rebounds with his massive size, makes him a complete NBA superstar. He is the type of player that a team can build a franchise around, and one could even argue that he is the best player to come out of the draft since LeBron James.

Davis showed how much of an impact he can have on a team in his NBA debut Wednesday night. The rookie scored 21 points and grabbed seven boards against the Spurs and nearly led New Orleans to a stunning upset against the San Antonio Spurs.

But while Anthony Davis is the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award this season in the NBA, there are plenty of other candidates who could have equally good, if not better seasons than Davis. The main guy who could snatch the award away from Davis is Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

In his rookie debut last night, Lillard recorded a double-double in 35 minutes of action, scoring 23 points and dishing out 11 assists. The Blazers were also plus-16 when Lillard was on the court and minus-six when he was off the court, showing his great impact on the game.

Lillard's performance of 23 points and 11 assists also made him the first player since LeBron James to record at least 21 points and nine assists in his debut. Lillard also joined the ranks of Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debuts. That is some extremely high company for the rookie who has only played in one game.

Lillard showed that he has a strong ability to drive the lane and finish at the basket Wednesday night, but he also showed that he can burn defenders by crossing them over, stepping back and draining jumpers.

Much of Lillard's play compares him very closely to Cleveland Cavaliers' point guard Kyrie Irving, last year's Rookie of the Year. Both players are very well-balanced when it comes to scoring and getting assists. They both have an ability to find the open man and run the offense like a true point guard but can also hit the outside shots and have incredible speed to drive the lane and score. If you had to find a balance between a passing point guard like a Steve Nash or Chris Paul and a scoring point guard like a Russell Westbrook, Irving and Lillard would be the perfect candidates.

The NBA season is only two days old, and right now Davis is still the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but make no mistake that it is not a one man race. Lillard and Davis will definitely be fighting it out all season long to see who truly is the 2013 Rookie of the Year.