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ROOKIE REPORT
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Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Sixers' Speights makes his move up

By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Dec 25 2008 10:35AM

You'll notice a new face in the top 10 this week, marking the third straight edition of the Rookie Rankings that a player has made the leap from the likes of the Next 10 (or unranked) to a spot amongst the top-tier first-year players.

The last two to do it -- Brook Lopez in Week 6 and Eric Gordon in Week 7 -- both moved up the rankings the following week. They gained momentum in their rookie campaigns as we inch closer to the dreaded "rookie wall" months of January and February when teams reach the 30-game mark on their schedules.

The 82-game NBA season is like Lawrence of Arabia compared to the Men In Black 2 length of seasons in the preps and NCAA ranks.

There is an adjustment you have to put your body through to be able to perform in that many contests. A high school season is 25 games max and a run to the NCAA Final Four will put you at about 35 games played.

You're seeing guys like Lopez, Gordon and Philadelphia's Marreese Speights break through while other top 10 mainstays such as Jason Thompson, Marc Gasol and Kevin Love start to fizzle.

As much as it comes down to strength and conditioning, players have to be mentally prepared to seize their opportunity when it comes around and make the most of it.

Line of the Week
Russell Westbrook (OKC)
Dec. 21 vs. CLE
24 points, 11 ast, 6 reb
2-3 3-FG, 8-9 FT

Speights played 20-plus minutes in back-to-back games for the first time in his career last week, totaling 29 points on 13-for-20 shooting, seven rebounds and six blocks in the two contests.

The key is sustaining your production once you get that chance. Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute and Portland's Nicolas Batum both shot up the rankings in previous weeks thanks to taking their unexpected playing time and running with it, but they both tailed off after their initial spurt.

Mbah a Moute has been truly impressive in getting back up to the high bar he set for himself early in the season. After hitting his low with just four minutes of playing time on Dec. 5 (less than three weeks after he logged a career high 44 minutes while collecting 19 points and 17 rebounds against Memphis), Luc responded with 14 points in his next game (Dec. 7). He hit another lull after his bounce back game, but is striving again, scoring in double digits his last four games while also swiping nine boards in each of his last three games.

Whether you peak early or start late, the one thing all rookies are searching for is a bit of consistency.

And as the Rookie Rankings will show you, aside from a couple of truly special guards in Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo, the only thing consistent about this year's crop is their inconsistency.

Korleone Young Drop of the Week: M. Gasol MEM (-4)
Eddie Gottlieb Rise of the Week: R. Westbrook OKC; B. Lopez NJN (+2)

Overall Rankings - Week 8

1. Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
28
37.7
17.5 3.8
6.1
1.0 0.2 .474 .316 .806
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 1
Rose had his hands full with Allen Iverson and Rodney Stuckey on Tuesday, playing just 21 minutes before fouling out while trying to stay in front of his speedy counterparts. He gets back to the No. 1 pole position however thanks in large part to a stellar 24-point, five-rebound, three-assist showing in a win against Deron Williams and the Jazz.

2. O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
28 37.1
19.9
4.0 2.9 1.1 0.1 .458 .414 .881
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 3
Mayo shined against his summer workout buddy Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Monday, dropping in 22 points (aided by his 5-for-9 marksmanship from deep) and registering six assists. The Grizzlies led by five points with three minutes remaining before succumbing to the No. 1 team in the West. The L.A. game was a compelling case to stay No. 1, but the reason he drops is his two 2-for-10 games against Dallas and Charlotte sandwiching the effort against the Lakers.

3. Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
29 29.3 13.3 4.0 4.6 1.6 0.2 .384 .282 .803
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 4
Other than having the line of the week (above), the compact guard out of UCLA had a quality 19-point, eight-assist outing in a win against Toronto last week. Westbrook continues to shine since being plugged into the starting lineup and he credits extra film study as the reason his production has spiked.

4. Michael Beasley, F, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
26 25.4 13.3 4.8 1.0 0.6 0.5 .444 .346 .781
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 2
Beasley drops out of the top three for the first time all season, but the thing I'm more concerned with is are we officially calling him "Mike" or "Michael" My vote goes for Mike, because the name Michael carries with it the association of a level of God-like play that I'm not sure Beasley is ready to live up to quite yet.

5. D.J. Augustin, G, Charlotte
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
29 29.2 13.0 1.8 4.5 0.5 0.0 .409 .422 .930
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 9
Augustin's scoring might have gone down after he only totaled 15 points in the three games following his season-high 29 last week, but the ex-Longhorn has found other ways to be effective, dishing out 10 assists in a win over Memphis on Friday.

6. Rudy Fernandez, G-F, Portland
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
29 25.7 10.9 3.2 2.0 0.9 0.2 .418 .399 .918
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 24 by Phoenix in 2007
Ever since stumbling upon Rudy's blog a couple of weeks ago, I can't get enough. This week, he lets us in on some off-the-court happenings: "This has been an important week for me, above all because my family has come to stay with me for Christmas and New Year's, like I told you last week," Fernandez wrote. "It's also been an important week because I've done something that I've needed to do for a long time: move to a new house."

7. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
28 27.9 9.9 7.6 0.7 0.6
1.9
.472 .000 .778
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 10
Lopez turned in a gem of a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to Miami last week. He also blocked five shots against the Heat, the sixth time this month that he's swatted three or more shots in a game.

8. Mario Chalmers, G, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
27 31.6 9.9 2.7 4.4 1.9 0.1 .419 .360 0.721
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 34
Saw this little nugget in Ira Winderman's mailbag this week. "Now the question is where Mario ranks all-time among Heat second-round draft picks, a group that includes Grant Long, Sherman Douglas, Eddie House, Matt Geiger and Rasual Butler. For now, I'd rank 'em: Douglas, Long, House." When you go 8-for-30 over three games like Chalmers just did, it's tough to find anything more positive to say about a guy than linking him to some obscure franchise trivia.

9. Eric Gordon, G, L.A. Clippers
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
28 26.8 9.4 2.2 1.8 1.0 0.5 .432 .370 .817
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: 7
My favorite story I've heard about Gordon all year came from Clippers TV announcer Ralph Lawler, who regaled me in a tale about a road trip the Clips took to Oklahoma City earlier in the season. At the shootaround before L.A. played OKC, a bunch of the Clippers players were taking halfcourt shots while Gordon finished his workout. Gordon saw the errant attempts of his teammates sail far and wide, so before he went to the locker room, he decided to show them how it's done. The former Hoosier, who turns 20 years old on Christmas day, dribbled up to the pack and took a pull-up jumper from the center line ? nothing but net. "Perfect form like it was a 15-footer," Lawler remembered.

10. Marreese Speights, F-C, Philadelphia
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
26 14.6 7.4 3.8 0.4 0.5 0.8 .506 .500 .805
Last Week: Unranked | Drafted: 16
The Tony DiLeo-for-Mo Cheeks move wasn't inspiring the type of change the Sixers' brass were hoping for, so in another attempt to shake things up, Speights' playing time has drastically improved. The 6-foot-11 big man out of Florida has made the most of it, scoring in double digits in each of his last four games.
RED = Rookie Leader (Must Qualify)

The Next 10 (alphabetical order): Marc Gasol (MEM), George Hill (SAS), Courtney Lee (ORL), Kevin Love (MIN), Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL), Anthony Morrow (GSW), Greg Oden (POR), Anthony Randolph (GSW), Brandon Rush (IND), Jason Thompson (SAC)

Noteworthy

Taylor

Mike Taylor (LAC), the first-ever D-League player selected in the NBA draft, is expected to be out for six weeks after fracturing his right thumb against the Bulls.
Brandon Rush (IND) has scored 10 points or more in five of his last six games, albeit during that streak he had a couple of ghastly shooting nights ? going 4-for-17 against the Warriors and 5-for-22 against the Clippers.
The HNPAMY (Have Not Played A Minute Yet) Club: J.R. Giddens (BOS)*, Hamed Haddadi (MEM)*, Richard Hendrix (GSW)*, Nathan Jawai (TOR), Sonny Weems (DEN)*, D.J. White (OKC)
* = assigned to D-League


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