No, Damian Lillard isn’t the Rookie of the Year

drummond_lillard

There have been a lot of words written about this year’s Rookie of the Year contest. As a matter of fact, we’ve already written about it this year:

Voters, we need to talk. Andre Drummond is the rookie of the year. This is not a question, it is a fact! Andre Drummond is outperforming his peers at an insane rate. It’s not even close. Even if Drummond doesn’t suit up for the rest of the season, it would take an insane performance for any other rookie in the race to even match him. Drummond is THE rookie of the year. And he deserves this award not just because of totals, but also because of the historic nature of his performance.

Well, since that article was written, Andre Drummond went down with a spinal injury and missed 22 games. Should we get out our whiteout and replace Drummond with the odds-on favourite, Damian Lillard? Here are the top ten rookies, as ranked by points per game (PPG):

Player MP PPG WP48 Wins
Damian Lillard 3129 19.0 0.064 4.2
Dion Waiters 1734 14.6 -0.018 -0.7
Bradley Beal 1745 13.9 0.088 3.2
Anthony Davis 1846 13.5 0.173 6.7
Harrison Barnes 2027 9.3 0.061 2.6
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2000 9.0 0.119 5.0
Kyle Singler 2271 8.8 0.049 2.3
Jonas Valanciunas 1453 8.8 0.115 3.5
Alexey Shved 1818 8.7 0.02 0.8
Maurice Harkless 1931 8.2 0.134 5.4

Voters love points. Take a look at the posts we’ve written about this award in the past:

So it’s almost certain that Damian Lillard and his 19.0 PPG average is going to win this award. His closest competition is Dion Waiters, who scores almost four and a half fewer points per game. But just by looking at the table, it’s clear that going by points alone is a bad way to rank the rookies. What if we rank rookies by wins instead? That table looks like this:

Player MP PPG WP48 Wins
Andre Drummond 1212 7.8 0.313 7.9
Anthony Davis 1846 13.5 0.173 6.7
Pablo Prigioni 1252 3.5 0.220 5.7
Maurice Harkless 1931 8.2 0.134 5.4
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2000 9.0 0.119 5.0
Damian Lillard 3129 19.0 0.064 4.2
Jonas Valanciunas 1453 8.8 0.115 3.5
Bradley Beal 1745 13.9 0.088 3.2
Harrison Barnes 2027 9.3 0.061 2.6
Kyle Singler 2271 8.8 0.049 2.3

Andre Drummond still leads all rookies in wins, even after missing 22 games and spending a lot of time on Detroit’s bench. This is because Drummond’s per-minute win production — Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) — is in the same range as Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. For a 19 year old, these numbers are historic. Drummond has been six times more productive than the average rookie! Take a look at this comparison (stats per 48 minutes):

Stat Player A Player B Average Centre
PTS 18.3 23.0 17.8
REB 18.0 16.7 12.7
AST 1.1 1.9 2.3
TO 2.2 4.0 2.7
BLK 3.6 3.3 2.1
STL 2.2 1.5 1.1
PF 5.5 5.2 5.4
FG% 60.7% 58.1% 49.8%
FT% 35.9% 49.4% 68.1%
TS% 57.4% 57.6% 54.1%
FGA 13.3 14.3 14.1
FTA 6.2 12.8 5.3
PPS 1.38 1.60 1.26

One of these two players is Andre Drummond. The other is Dwight Howard. At this point in his career, that Drummond could be mentioned in the same sentence as even an injured Dwight Howard should be an eye-opener. By the way, Drummond is Player A.

For a centre, Drummond doesn’t get very many assists. He’s also below average with respect to field goal attempts, and his free-throw shooting is absolutely horrendous. But his scoring, shooting efficiency, rebounding, blocks, and steals are all well above average. He even turns the ball over less often than an average centre. The Wins Produced calculation takes all of these statistical categories into account when calculating the number of wins a player has contributed to their team.

Anthony Davis, who ranks second in rookie wins, has also had an excellent season. Rounding out the top five are Pablo Prigioni of the New York Knicks, Maurice Harkless of the Orlando Magic, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Bobcats. Our rookie PPG leader, Damian Lillard, ranks 6th in rookie wins. It should be noted that the average NBA rookie posts a WP48 of 0.050, so each of the top eight rookies (including Lillard) has been above average.

If we awarded this honour to the rookie with the largest positive impact on his team, we’d be giving the award to Andre Drummond. Failing that, Anthony Davis would be the next-best choice, but instead, by virtue of his high scoring average, Lillard will undoubtedly win this award. While it won’t be surprising when it happens, that doesn’t make it any less of a mistake.

- Devin

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