Updated: December 21, 2012, 12:36 AM ET

Around The Association

Can Damian Lillard Be A Star?

By David Thorpe
Scouts Inc.
lastname
Lillard

Go back through the past five drafts and count the number of impact-level point guards the league has absorbed. The list includes a league MVP, Olympians, guys who played in the NBA Finals, rookies of the year, one of the league's best shooters, a few of its top pure athletes and one undrafted sensation who took over the league for a spell:

Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Eric Bledsoe, Kemba Walker, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Ricky Rubio, Jeff Teague, Ty Lawson, Brandon Knight, Jeremy Lin and, yes, James Harden (listed as a shooting guard but really plays like a point guard).

This list doesn't even include Tyreke Evans, who won the ROY award as a point guard before being moved off the ball later on. It's quite a list, representing the present and the future of the point guard position.

This season, just one rookie has looked like a long-term starter at point guard: Damian Lillard. The only question is: Can he be a star? Let's take a look at how he measures up to what some of the current point guard stars did as rookies.

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What Happened To The Heat's Title D?

By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN Insider

Maybe the Miami Heat's defense thinks the season begins on Christmas Day again.

After two seasons ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency, the Heat find themselves 14th on that end of the floor. The defending champs have the league's fifth-best record at 16-6 and the sixth-best point differential (5.3 points).

The defensive lapse doesn't make sense on paper. The Heat's star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are back in the fold. The rotation members from last season -- Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller and Norris Cole -- are still with the Heat. Everybody from the front office and the coaching staff and even Burnie the team mascot returned for the quest to repeat as champions.

Actually, the roster continuity is almost unprecedented. Dig into the numbers and you'll see that the Heat have a staggering 96.7 percent retention rate of the total minutes played by last season's roster. It's the highest percentage for any championship team in 15 years. (The 1997-98 Bulls reeled in 97.2 percent of their roster from the previous season's title-winning team for their last hurrah and another crown.) It's also a stark contrast to the 2011 champion Dallas Mavericks, which brought back only 66.2 percent of their roster minutes after letting Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson head elsewhere.

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