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Who’s LeBron James’ Top Rookie of the Year Favorite?

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

While many thought the unanimous Rookie of the Year selection would fall to Anthony Davis, an emerging star in Portland is gaining more looks as the season shapes into form.

His name? Damian Lillard who is even receiving endorsements from the league’s reigning MVP winner LeBron James. In an interview with Sean Meagher of Oregonlive.com, James went so far as to name Lillard the early Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

“He’s exceeded all expectations and more,” James said. “He will become great. He’s one of the good point guards we have in our league today. They continue to come. Our league is full of really good point guards, and he’s one of them.

When asked about his progress early in the season, James made sure to note his natural poise and focus at the NBA level.

“I just think of how under control he is,” James continued. “It’s like he’s been here before. He’s never out of his comfort zone. He’s never too fast. He’s never too slow. He plays in his own lane. His ability to shoot the ball and his ability to drive the ball makes him a threat.”

Through the first three months of the season, Lillard has been nothing but solid for a team that was fading out of the national spotlight. As the former No. 6 overall draft pick, the rookie sensation has posted 18 points, 6.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 42 percent from the field and boasting a 16.41 PER. The biggest improvement he’s seen since jumping from the college level is an uptick in his assists mark. In fact, his assists per game at the university ranks was a mere 3.4, nearly half of what he’s posting in the NBA.

With Lillard in toe, the Trailblazers have almost resurrected their franchise in just one year’s time. They currently reside in seventh place in the West and are a mere 2.5-games back of the No. 5 slot (Golden State Warriors, which they will play Friday night), which would steer them clear of a high-ranking team like the LA Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the postseason.

Lillard could very well be the sexy favorite picked as the 2013 Rookie of the Year, but it could very well hinge on the prospect of Portland nabbing a playoff spot.

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