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Sacramento's Tyreke Evans leads all rookies with nine 20-point scoring performances.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Evans takes top spot from Jennings

By Drew Packham,
Posted Dec 2 2009 7:39PM

This was one of the most difficult decisions -- at the top spot, anyway -- of the young season.

With both Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans playing so well -- they were named T-Mobile Rookies of the Month for their respective conferences on Tuesday -- it was difficult picking one above the other.

But that's what I'm paid the big bucks to do, and what it came down to for me was this: recent performance ... and a gut feeling. In other words, who is impressing me most right now.

In three games this week, Evans averaged 18.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Jennings, in his team's four games, averaged 14.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

The Kings went 3-0. The Bucks were 1-3.

Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking Jennings for his recent play. It's hard to take anything away from the catalyst for the Bucks' 9-7 record. But even more impressive, in my opinion, is the fact that Evans has the Kings at 8-8 -- without starters Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia.

Who would have thought before the season the Bucks and Kings would be a combined 17-15? I certainly didn't, and it's a testament to the surprising performances of Evans and Jennings -- whichever happens to be in the No. 1 position.'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. You can also follow him on Twitter. For past week's rankings, click here.

1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 4
Evans told the Sacramento Bee this week he gets up about 1,000 shots on practice days. But Kings assistant Pete Carril, who has worked closely with Evans to improve his shooting form, isn't satisfied. "I think it's getting better," Carril told the Bee. "I wish he'd work a little harder at it because the potential for that kid is immense. There's not a thing he won't be able to do once he sets his mind to it -- I don't care what it is. Every aspect of the game, he has the potential to be good at every one, and that's not easy." So far, Evans' numbers have him in some pretty elite company. Through Tuesday, Evans and the Cavs' LeBron James are the only two players averaging 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.

2. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 10
As Brandon Jennings goes, so go the Bucks. Check out these stats: In the Bucks' nine wins, Jennings is averaging 25.1 points and 5.3 assists while shooting .491 from the field (and an incredible .548 from three-point land). In the Bucks' seven losses, Jennings is averaging 17.6 points and 6.1 assists while shooting .346 from the field (and "only" .441 on 3s). And despite his recent dip statistically, Jennings isn't worried. "I'm not looking to score as much as I did before," Jennings said Monday night. "I'll score at times, but I don't think people will see me going for those crazy numbers anymore. I'll just keep it simple and get the wins. That's the most important thing."

3. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 6
In his two years at Syracuse, Jonny Flynn helped the Orange to 49 wins and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, so you'd think winning would come naturally. But when the Wolves snapped their 15-game losing streak this week with a win over the Nuggets, the rookie and his teammates had a hard time containing themselves. "You see, on the court, you've got to keep your cool," Flynn said after the 106-100 win in Denver. "You've got to keep your cool until you come back in the locker room and then you scream and jump around. You should have seen us coming into the locker room. It was like we won the championship, everybody hugging each other."

4. Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 21
With Tuesday night's 20-point game in the Hornets' 110-99 loss to he Lakers, Collison has now scored in double digits in 10 straight games. In his three games this week, Collison averaged 16.3 points and 6.3 assists while turning the ball over 11 times. More impressive was his performance in last week's 102-99 win over the Bucks. Collison nailed the tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime, then knocked down a free throw with eight seconds left to give the Hornets the lead for good. "Regardless if you're a rookie or not, it's about basketball and anybody can make plays at the end of the game," Collison said. "That rookie label ... it really doesn't matter."

5. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 18
In case you missed it, my colleague Steve Aschburner had a great piece on Ty Lawson last week. In it, Lawson draws praise from George Karl (who is slow to shower praise on rookies) and talks about the opportunity to play on a winning team. "I'm OK right where I'm at," Lawson said. "We're playing well, I'm on a winning team, we have a chance to win a championship. Not a lot of players get to do that. I'm playing around 20 minutes a game, right? I have no problem playing on this team." And he's doing a lot with those 20 minutes, averaging 7.2 points and 5.0 assists this week, while leading all rookies in +/- on the season, with a cumulative +107 on the season, which is 16th among all players. No other rookie is in the top 50.

6. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 23
Casspi is coming into his own -- averaging 13.6 points and 4.0 rebounds this week -- but it was his free-throw shooting that drew attention. In the Kings' 109-96 win over the Nets, Casspi -- a 47.4 percent free-throw shooter -- was fouled intentionally late in the fourth quarter in what Casspi called "Hack-a-Omri" after the game. "It's the first time in my life it's happened to me," Casspi said after knocking down 3 of 4 before Lawrence Frank waved off the tactic. "I don't even worry about Omri at the free-throw line," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "It was a hiccup, to me, to start the year. He just couldn't get anything to fall. Omri's a good free-throw shooter and a clutch player. I didn't mind them fouling him at all."

7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 7
After a slow start to the season offensively, Curry has scored in double digits In eight of the Warriors' last nine games. So what's been the difference? "He's coming down and taking a shot without worrying if he should have taken the shot," Warriors assistant Keith Smart told the San Jose Mercury News. "He's being aggressive. If you err on the side of aggression, it's going to work itself out." In that same stretch, Curry has also averaged 5.8 assists and almost two steals, so he's getting it done in all areas.

8. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 43
After six straight double-digit games, Thornton had his first rookie-esque game in that stretch, scoring four points on 1-for-5 shooting in the Hornets' 102-99 overtime win over the Bucks. Still, Thornton is staying aggressive, which is earning him playing time under Hornets coach Jeff Bower. "I like the fact that he's not afraid to make plays," Bower told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "And he's not afraid to attempt to do things. (I like) his aggressiveness and fearlessness going into the paint and breaking down the defense off the dribble."

9. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 39
I've wanted to put Jerebko in the top 10 for the longest time, and this week he finally gets the nod after averaging 16.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in his last two games. Jerebko, the first Swedish player in the NBA, is the definition of a hustle guy. "That's why he's playing," Pistons coach John Kuester told "There's no hidden formula -- he does this offensively or he does that -- no. He plays hard on every possession. "He's someone I can count on, and that's important." With injuries to Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and most recently Ben Gordon, Jerebko has filled in admirably, rarely filling the box score, but always making a difference.

10. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 3
In his last six games, Harden is averaging 14.8 points and almost two steals in 26.1 minutes of action. But more importantly, what's up with the beard? "I thought about (shaving it)," Harden recently told The Oklahoman. "I just look like a kid if I shave it. I like to keep this grown, mature look. I don't want mine to get as crazy as Baron Davis'. But it's just a little something I like." Beard or no beard, Harden is playing like a seasoned veteran and is improving with every game.

Honorable Mention: DeJuan Blair, Spurs: Picked it up a little this week, averaging 7.6 points, 6.0 boards; also took back first among rookies in rebounding from Chicago's Taj Gibson; Sam Young, Grizzlies: Had 17 points, four rebounds in his first start, a loss Monday in Utah; David Andersen, Rockets: Averaged 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in three games this week; Austin Daye, Pistons: Had 13 points, five rebounds in season-high 33 minutes in loss to Clippers; Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies: Had one of his best games in Grizzlies' win over Blazers with nine points, six rebounds and three blocks.

Dropped out: Terrence Williams, Chase Budinger

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