It might require a precipitous and -- let's face it -- unlikely fall over the final third of the season for Portland point guard Damian Lillard to relinquish the NBA rookie of the year award. Assuming he doesn't, it would make him just the second non-No. 1 overall pick in the last five years to win the honor. But based on rookie production, the crowded competition right behind him may prove to be the most accurately drafted group in the last decade.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters -- who were drafted first through fourth -- very well might finish in some combination of second through fifth.
It has been four years since three of the top four picks finished at least that high in the rookie of the year voting. In 2009, No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose finished directly ahead of No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo, and No. 4 pick Russell Westbrook finished fourth. In 2005, current Wizards center Emeka Okafor took the award as the No. 2 overall pick, ahead of No. 3 pick Ben Gordon and Dwight Howard, who was taken first by the Orlando Magic.
Lillard (18.3 ppg, 6.5 apg) has run the Blazers like a veteran since he was picked sixth in June. He has three Western Conference rookie of the month awards to none for Davis (12.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg), who averages more than 10 minutes less per night for New Orleans. But Davis is hard to ignore when he's putting up the kind of numbers he did Sunday at Sacramento (20 points on 9-for-14 shooting, eight rebounds).
Beal (13.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) has become the resurgent Wizards' most potent offensive weapon and a leader at age 19. Waiters (14.4 ppg, 3.2 apg) doesn't have to do quite as much for Cleveland but has shown he can -- he had 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting against Miami on Sunday. Kidd-Gilchrist (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) hasn't been spectacular, but there's no chance Charlotte dumps him like Sacramento did with No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson, who was traded to Houston last week.
- Craig Stouffer