COMMENTARY | For a team with a 25-47 record, the New Orleans Hornets are certainly making a lot of noise with respect to potential 2013 NBA award winners. Greivis Vasquez could win the NBA Most Improved Player Award. Ryan Anderson should finish in the top five for NBA Sixth Man of the Year. And Anthony Davis is in the discussion for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Considering he just turned 20 on March 11 and he was still in high school two years ago, Anthony Davis is having an exceptional NBA rookie season. Slowed early on by injuries, Davis had a difficult learning curve in acclimating to the Hornets' offense. Despite what some considered a slow start, Davis is averaging 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He leads NBA rookies in rebounds and blocks, which looks good on his Rookie of the Year resume.
Since the NBA All-Star break, Davis has improved tremendously for New Orleans. He has confidence in his mid-range jumper and with an obvious better understanding of the Hornets' offense, New Orleans is now running plays for him. In the 17 games he's played after the break, Davis is averaging 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Hornets coach Monty Williams has also increased Davis' playing time.
The clear frontrunner and Davis' main competition for the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year Award is Damian Lillard. A four-year collegiate player out of Weber State, Lillard was clearly more of a finished product early on as an NBA rookie than the 19-year-old Davis was. Lillard distanced himself from the pack for Rookie of the Year consideration and he is now averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Portland Trail Blazers.
While NBA fans in New Orleans have certainly noticed Anthony Davis' improved play since the All-Star break, they may be wondering how Lillard has played lately. Like Davis, Lillard is also improving. In his 18 games played since the break, Lillard is averaging 21.2 points and 6.6 assists per game.
Anthony Davis has played three of his best games as an NBA rookie in his matchups against Damian Lillard. In the first contest, Davis scored 15 points, but Lillard's last-second three-pointer won the game. In the second game, the Hornets crushed the Trail Blazers as Davis thoroughly outplayed Lillard. Davis had 21 points and 11 rebounds while Lillard only had 12 points and 4 assists. Both players had great stats in their last game, which the Hornets won 98-96.
Barring a catastrophic collapse, Damian Lillard will be the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year. But more importantly for Hornets fans, the second half of the season has proven that Anthony Davis truly does have the up-side that all the NBA analysts said he has. With more experience than Davis, Lillard is more of a finished product and is closer to realizing his full potential. However, both players are outstanding and could someday win a much more important NBA award than Rookie of the Year.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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