Confidence the key for Damian Lillard

DIME MagazineThe 2012 Draft class is not getting such great reviews so far. There have not been many rookies worth mentioning.

Or maybe it has not gotten much talk because the Rookie of the Year race has been so easy to pick.

Damian Lillard has been the clear guy from seemingly the beginning of the season. He has averaged 18.9 points and 6.4 assists per game. Although he has shot 42.9 percent from the floor, Lillard has made an impact for the Blazers and helped them hover just outside the Playoffs. He certainly made Portland get some quality value out of the Gerald Wallace trade with a point guard the franchise can build around with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.

Portland is still a dangerous team.

Lillard and the Trail Blazers were on full display Friday in San Antonio when the Trail Blazers defeated the Spurs 136-106 at AT&T Center, marking the largest home defeat for the Spurs since February 1997 and the most points allowed by a Spurs team at home since giving up 153 to the Nuggets in November 1990.

Lillard was a big part of that scoring 35 points on 12-for-20 shooting and dishing out nine assists. He cut through San Antonio's defense easily and made a mockery of this vaunted team's play. It is just one game, but Lillard has put on some impressive scoring performances throughout the year.

It was Lillard's fourth 30-point game and 11th game of 25 points or more. If there is one thing Lillard has, it is confidence. Even against a team like San Antonio.

"It's like a confidence where you feel like everything is fine," Lillard told Project Spurs after Friday's performance against San Antonio. "When I was scoring and making plays, I felt like we were going to be fine. If I needed to get a bucket, I could get a bucket. It's just being comfortable with it. I felt like I could get places and make things happen."

Lillard is certainly not lacking for confidence.

He has become a true professional. He followed up that stellar performance against the Spurs with 20 points against the Hornets on Sunday and then another 30 points last night against the Trail Blazers Grizzlies. He has scored at least 20 points in his last seven games.

Lillard does not appear to be approaching that rookie wall. Instead he seems to be getting better.

That is key for Lillard. He is confident in his abilities and his coaches are confident too.

There are still plenty of areas Lillard needs to improve. His field goal percentage is mediocre and he has the lowest field goal percentage for a rookie taking at least 15 field goal attempts per game since Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in 2004. They obviously turned out OK. Lillard is playing well and setting himself for a long career and successful career in the NBA.

At the very least he has secured a runaway win for Rookie of the Year, having won Rookie of the Month every month so far this season.

That should only add to his confidence moving forward.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily