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Rookie Rankings: Point guards all the rage in first week

By Drew Packham,
Posted Nov 4 2009 1:22PM

After a week of play, it's all about the point guards.

This week, the top four spots are filled by floor generals and, until Blake Griffin returns, it appears things will stay that way.

In Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings is quickly winning over fans with his quickness and surprising shooting touch. Any guy who says his goal was to "come in here and get, like, 15 assists a game" (as he recently told The Sporting News) is my kind of guy. Really, Brandon? 15? That's all?

In Golden State, Stephen Curry is living up to his billing as a player who gets his teammates involved.

In Minnesota, Jonny Flynn is proving fearless about getting into the lane and made Ricky Rubio a distant memory.

And in Sacramento, Tyreke Evans, who I pegged last week as the frontrunner, has struggled out of the gate but still shown glimpses of brilliance through four games.

Aside from the top four point guards, Denver's Ty Lawson is proving to be a valuable backup to Chauncey Billups (and cracks this week's Top 10) and Jeff Teague is getting some playing time in Atlanta behind Mike Bibby.'s Rookie Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Wednesday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for Drew Packham, send him an e-mail.

1. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 10
If you haven't seen my colleague, NBA TV's Rick Kamla, rant on Brandon Jennings, take a look in the video archives. If it was any other player, Kamla's hyperbolic praise after two games ("I see greatness" and "perennial All-Star") would seem to be just that -- hyperbole. But I've got to side with my man Kamla here. Jennings looks like the real deal and it is definitely going to be a fun ride watching Jennings work.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 7
I knew Stephen Curry was good, but even I have been surprised by his first two games. It's not necessarily the statistics (13 ppg and 5.5 apg in 37.5 mpg), but more his presence on the court. Curry just looks like he gets it. After the Warriors' season-opening loss to the Rockets, Shane Battier, himself known for his understanding of the game, told, "He has the poise of, not a seasoned veteran, but you couldn't tell that was his first NBA game. A lot of times, looking at a rookie, you're like, 'Wow, this kid is just trying to figure out where to park his car.' But he looked composed, he knows the game, he has it."

3. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 6
Flynn almost singlehandedly saved the Wolves in their opener, scoring 11 in the fourth quarter to lead a surprising rally to beat the Nets. Since then, though, coach Kurt Rambis has had little patience for mistakes (he has 15 turnorvers, most among rookies), benching the rookie in favor of Ramon Sessions, who has grasped the triangle offense much quicker.

4. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 4
Evans took a tumble this week, and it's easy to see why. Granted, the Kings guard is dealing with a gimpy ankle, but he has to do better than 36 percent from the field (last among rookies), 14 percent from beyond the arc (1-for-7) and 55 percent from the free-throw line. Beno Udrih isn't going to take back the starter's minutes, but he looked like the better guard (yes, Beno Udrih) in the Kings' home-opening win.

5. Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 11
With Devin Harris sidelined, Williams should see more time at point guard. Not only that, but Yi Jianlian's sprained knee means coach Lawrence Frank may be forced to go with a small lineup, playing the energetic Williams in the four spot. The guard out of Louisville seems ready to handle the load and had a nice opener, notching 15 points and 10 boards.

6. Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: 44
Budinger may not be getting big-time minutes (15.9, 14th among rookies), but he's having a big-time impact. In the Rockets' rare road win in Utah, Budinger broke out for 17 points and five rebounds and was the major catalyst for Houston. Budinger sprained his ankle late in the fourth and may miss a game or two, but Rick Adelman is going to have a hard time keeping Budinger off the floor.

7. DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 37
It's only been a week, but already it appears Blair could finish the season as the top rookie rebounder. Through three games, Blair is pulling in 8.3 boards in about 20 minutes of action. Behind Blair, at 5.0 per game, is New Jersey's Terrence Williams. Blake Griffin may give Blair a run for the title when he comes back from his knee injury, but for the near future Blair should continue to dominate the category.

8. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 9
DeRozan has started the Raptors' first three games and, despite seeing his minutes drop in each game, appears to have the starting job locked down. "I think the rookie has been very good in limited minutes and we're happy with where he is right now," said coach Jay Triano. Still, while Triano is happy with DeRozan starting, he prefers to play backup Antoine Wright in crunch time, which are minutes the rookie will have to earn.

9. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 23
Most rookies have to represent their college, their hometown, maybe their state in the NBA. Try representing a nation. That's what Casspi -- the first Israeli in the NBA -- is doing. And doing it well. Casspi, who is averaging 10.2 points (fifth among rookies), has earned coach Paul Westphal's trust. "He's hungry," Westphal said after the King's home opener. "He brings a fierceness. I wish everybody could look in his eyes when I walk down the bench looking to put somebody in the game. He wants to play so bad."

10. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 18
Lawson burst onto the scene in the Nuggets' opener, tallying 17 points and six assists against the Jazz. Almost immediately, the emails proclaiming him ROY started flowing into my inbox. Since then, he's come back to earth (my inbox has, too), but it looks like Denver has found the perfect understudy to Chauncey Billups.

Honorable Mention: James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder: Falls out of the top 10, but has been solid from 3-point land (4-for-7); David Andersen, Houston Rockets: Seeing 12.8 mpg backing up the big men; DeMarre Carroll, Memphis Grizzlies: 12 points, seven rebounds in win over Wizards; 0-for-8 from field in two games since; Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons: Became the first Swede to start an NBA game when he filled in for Tayshaun Prince. Finished with zero points and five rebounds.

All statistics are through Tuesday's games. Statistics in red represent the rookie leader in that category.

photoThunder vs. Warriors - Game 7
Stephen Curry scores 36 points as Golden State rallies from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Thunder, 96-88 to advance to the Finals.
photoWarriors on Series Win
Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry and address the media following the Game 7 and series win over the Thunder.
photoDurant Scores 27
Kevin Durant has 27 points and seven rebounds versus the Warriors on Monday night.
photoFinals Preview
Matt, Sam and Brent look ahead to Game 1 and the Finals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.
photoThompson Heats Up From Three
Klay Thompson goes for 21 points including six 3-pointers in the Warriors Game 7 win over the Thunder.

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