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DeMar DeRozan's newfound aggressiveness is paying off for the Raptors.
Kevin C. Cox/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: DeRozan starting to take off in Toronto

By Drew Packham,
Posted Dec 9 2009 5:34PM

I'll say this for Toronto Raptors fans: They're a vocal bunch.

And they think I have no clue about DeMar DeRozan.

It's true that DeRozan has been absent from the last four Rookie Rankings, but aside from starting every game and providing energy, DeRozan's statistics haven't warranted a spot in the top 10.

Until now.

Over his last four games, the Compton, Calif., product -- who grew up playing with Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings -- is averaging 15.7 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 49 percent, 86 percent from the line.

DeRozan credits a newfound aggressiveness for his increase in production.

"I got too caught up with being a jump-shooter," he told the Montreal Gazette. "I had to get back to what I did best."

What DeRozan does best is get to the basket. Not only has he had several highlight-reel dunks (check out this one on the Bulls), but he's getting to the line, where he's done a large part of his damage.

"It's like figuring out how to talk to a girl -- you finally know what to say," DeRozan said Tuesday after going 7-for-7 on free throws in the Raptors' 94-88 win over the Wolves. "I have an infatuation with the line. I just want to get there; it's easy points."

In his first 19 games, DeRozan took just 28 free throws. In his last four, he's taken 29. It's no coincidence that the Raptors have won three straight to improve their record to 10-13.

"Right now, he seems to have a lot of confidence taking the ball to the basket," Raptors coach Jay Triano told the Gazette. "I think we have been a little bit more liberal in giving him the ball in transition and letting him create, and I think because of that he has prospered."'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: 1 | Drafted: 4
Not even a nasty spill could slow down Evans this week. In the Kings' loss to the Hornets on Tuesday, Evans beat the first-quarter buzzer with a layup, but landed hard on his chest, his head snapping violently, a fall which shook up the rookie momentarily. Evans returned and finished with 25 points and nine assists. In four games this week, Evans averaged 25.5 points, five rebounds, 6.5 assists and had just seven turnovers.

2. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 10
In a somewhat awkward and surreal moment, I had a chance to have an impromptu "Twitterview" with @YungBuck3 this week. After mentioning that Jennings would need to 'step up' to separate himself from the other rookies, Jennings fired back at my tweet, questioning my credibility (it's true, I never played in the NBA). We went on to have a lengthy, good-natured back-and-forth (at least I thought it was good-natured) in which I learned the following: If he could play one-on-one with anyone it would be Kenny Anderson; If he could play alongside any player, it would be "Magic Johnson and SHAQ when he was Younger;" and playing against Allen Iverson will "be something ill never forget."

3. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 6
Tuesday night in Toronto was a homecoming of sorts for Jonny Flynn. The point guard played his high school ball about 80 miles south in Niagara Falls, which he led to a state championship his sophomore season. Flynn set aside a few dozen tickets and a busload of fans made the trek, peppering the crowd with 'Go Jonny Go' and 'In Like Flynn' signs. Flynn finished with 17 points and eight assists in the Wolves' 94-88 loss.

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 7
It might seem like Warriors guard Monta Ellis is doing it all for Golden State, but Curry and Co. are trying to ease the load. Ellis, seventh in the league in scoring (24.7 ppg), is playing more minutes (40.3) than anyone in the league. "It's a lot to ask of a guy," Curry said after he scored a career-high 22 points in the Warriors' blowout loss in Oklahoma City. "I think he'll take that challenge every night, but I think it's up to us to help him out." Curry has improved steadily, scoring in double digits in 11 of his last 12. In three games this week, all losses, he averaged 15.3 points, four rebounds and 2.3 steals.

5. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 18
You can add Allen Iverson to the long list of players impressed by Lawson's game. Iverson -- who has made a career out of blowing past defenders -- got a dose of his own medicine in his return to Philadelphia on Monday night. "Me, stay in front of him?" Iverson said. "That kid is the fastest guy in the league." Lawson blew past A.I. on several occasions and finished the game with 12 points, four assists and six boards.

6. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 23
It's no secret that Casspi and the Kings' bench have been a pleasant surprise. In games in which the Kings' bench outscores its opponents, the Kings are 6-3, and Casspi is a big reason for that. Not only does Casspi bring energy, he's been a reliable outside threat for the Kings. He's third in the NBA from 3-point land (.512) and first among rookies. Casspi has scored in double-digits in seven of his last eight games, but missed the Kings' loss Tuesday in New Orleans with back spasms and is day-to-day.

7. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 39
Jerebko's hustle has caught on in Detroit. The Swedish rookie has become a fan favorite, leading Patrick Hayes of to compare him to the Detroit Tigers' scrappy third baseman Brandon Inge. As Hayes puts it, "Michiganders love hustle." Jerebko had another solid week, averaging 11 points and 6.3 rebounds as the Pistons went 2-1.

8. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: 3
Like DeRozan (see above), Harden is learning where he can most easily do damage -- at the free-throw line. Harden had a career-high 26 points Monday in the Thunder's 104-88 win over the Warriors, with 13 of those coming from the line. "James is a big guard who uses his size, as you saw tonight, to get to the line," teammate Jeff Green said. "And he also has the ability to shoot. He has a good all-around game. He's old school. There's nothing spectacular about it, but he gets it done." On the season, Harden is hitting 83 percent of his free throws, second only among rookies to the Hornets' Darren Collison.

9. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 9
Possibly the most exciting news to come from DeRozan this week is his confirmation to SLAM Online that he will be participating in the dunk contest All-Star Weekend in Dallas. In case you're not familiar with DeRozan's skills, check out clips on YouTube from 2008, when he won the McDonald's Dunk Contest after his senior year of high school. Kid Dynamite might just have a chance -- LeBron or no LeBron.

10. Wesley Matthews, Utah Jazz
Last Week: NR | Drafted: FA
After two weeks out of the top 10, the Jazz rookie finds his way back in, thanks to three straight double-digit scoring games. But it's Matthews' defense that has Jazz coach Jerry Sloan raving. "He's not afraid to try to guard anybody," Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune. "[It's] really been pretty refreshing to us to have a guy that is a rookie and is not afraid to compete like he has." Matthews will get a major test Wednesday night matched up against Kobe Bryant in L.A. "I'm ready for whatever," Matthews said Tuesday. "I'm excited about the opportunity to be able to go against the greatest to ever play this game."

Honorable Mention: Taj Gibson, Bulls: Was a very tough decision keeping Gibson out of top 10, especially after he averaged 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in four games. Gibson is first among rookies in rebounding with 5.8 per game. Set career-highs in scoring (20 vs. Nets) and rebounds (14 vs. Cavs) this week; Chase Budinger, Rockets: Averaged 14 points while hitting 15-of-28 shots (5 of 6 threes) in three games; Wayne Ellington, Timberwolves: Saw increased playing time (24.8 mpg) in four games this week, averaging eight points; Marcus Thornton, Hornets: Return of Peja Stojakovic has cut into playing time, but still crucial to Hornets' success; Darren Collison, Hornets: Only played 16 mpg in two games since Chris Paul returned.

Dropped out: Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison

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