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Rookie Rankings: Oh Rookie, Where Brothers Are

By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Jan 22 2009 5:49AM

Nets center Brook Lopez continued his steady rise up the rankings this week, settling into the No. 4 spot by averaging 19.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his last three games.

The impressive play not only brought attention to the 7-foot, 260-pound Lopez's skillset and emerging role as a second option after Devin Harris for New Jersey, but it also reminded us that he's doing that much better than his twin brother, rookie center Robin Lopez on the Suns.

Robin is only putting up 3.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks this season in 11.1 minutes of playing time, falling behind journeyman Louis Amundson in Terry Porter's rotation. Meanwhile, Brook is starting for the guy whose name he couldn't remember (Lawrence Frank) while being wired on live TV on draft night and improving game-by-game for the Nets.

Whether it's the five pounds Brook has on Robin or the five spots he was selected ahead of his twin in the draft that's the reason, Brook has opened up the largest gap between a rookie and his brother playing in the league this season.

Other than the Lopez twins, there are two other sets of rookie-veteran siblings playing in the league this year.

Indiana rookie Brandon Rush is averaging 6.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, while his older brother Kareem, a six-year vet, is only averaging 2.3 points and 0.7 boards in a reserve role for Philadelphia this season.

Rush, the rookie, has had an up-and-down season so far, going through the typical frustrations of a first-year player who will come in with confidence and score in the teens one night and then fail to top 10 points in his next three games, combined. His older brother, Kareem, is struggling to fill the designated shooter role that the 76ers direly need if they want to make some noise in the playoffs.

Line of the Week
Jerryd Bayless (POR)
Jan. 15 at NJN
23 points, 3 reb, 3 ast
6-9 FG, 11-11 FT

The other family pair, Marc and Pau Gasol, were traded for each other when the Lakers and Grizzlies pulled off a deadline deal last season before Marc had even played an NBA game. Marc is now starting off his career with the same franchise that Pau started his, averaging 11.1 points, 7.3 points, 1.5 assists and 1.1 blocks to his older brother's 17.5, 9.3, 3.5 and 0.9, respectively.

Gasol, the rookie, was productive right off the bat this season, slowing down temporarily before an injury to Darko Milicic opened up more time for him in the lineup. His older brother, Pau, is the Lakers' most consistent player -- Kobe Bryant included -- and appears to be on a mission this year after coming up small on the game's grandest stage in The Finals against Boston.

The Rushes and Gasols have nothing on the Lopezes (or "Lopi" as they were jokingly referred to as teammates at Stanford University) when it comes to creating intrigue for the rookie class.

Just a few of the reasons to pay attention to the Lopez twins -- both on the court and off:

• The redemption story of Brook rebounding that's seen him bounce back from an early-season 6-for-17 nightmare against Miami that included having two of his shots rejected by Dwyane Wade.

• The never-ending stream of stories about Robin's rookie hazing, from the YouTube clip of Shaquille O'Neal yelling "Who are you?" and making Robin and his rookie teammates stand up and shout to a crowded restaurant, "We are the Suns' rookies!", to me seeing Robin in line at the media buffet to fetch pregame meals for Phoenix players in L.A., to the story about him standing statuelike by the TV in the Suns' visiting locker room in Toronto last weekend holding up the antenna so the guys could watch the Cardinals NFC Championship game.

Overall Rankings - Week 12

1. Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
43 37.3 1687 3.5
6.3
0.8 0.2 .459 .288 .787
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 1
Well it turns out Chicago head coach Vinny Del Negro has my back when it comes to the rankings. "There's not even a conversation as far as I'm concerned," Del Negro told reporters when asked about the Rookie of the Year race last week. "[O.J.] Mayo's having a great year, and [Michael] Beasley is an incredibly talented player and is playing well. But no one's played at the level Derrick's played from the start to this point. Not even close."

2. O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
40
37.8
19.3
4.2 3.0 1.0 0.1 .443 .376 .883
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 3
Mayo played through a hip pointer injury to hit right on his average with 38 points over his two games last week, but he shot just 14-for-36 from the floor (38.8 pecent) in doing so.

3. Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
42 30.8 14.1 4.3 4.9 1.5 0.2 .405 .293 .785
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 4
Westbrook and the Thunder knocked off two playoff contenders last week with consecutive wins against the Jazz and Pistons. Just as the 70-win talk has cooled considerably for the Lakers, Celtics and Cavs, the 70-loss talk has all but stopped for Oklahoma City.

4. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
41 29.5 11.4 8.1 0.8 0.6
2.0
.485 .000 .813
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 10
Not only is Lopez a surefire top 10 rookie, but there's a case to be made for him being one of the top 10 centers in the league. Think about it. Wouldn't you put him right there after Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Al Jefferson, Marcus Camby, Shaquille O'Neal, Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bynum, David Lee and Emeka Okafor?

5. Michael Beasley, F, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
39 24.8 13.5 5.2 0.9 0.6 0.5 .456 .385 .741
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 2
Foul trouble spoiled Beasley's debut matchup against his childhood friend and fellow Prince George's County, Md., native Kevin Durant. Beasley picked up four fouls, limiting him to just 10 minutes and four points. Durant, meanwhile, filled it up with 31 points, six rebounds and five assists.

6. Eric Gordon, G, L.A. Clippers
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
40 31.1 12.8 2.4 2.1 1.0 0.5 .434 .349 .857
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 7
This quote from Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan's blog last week about his teammate Gordon was too good not to include in its entirety: "By the way, Eric got banned from the team half-court competition. I told you how after practice we have competitions; one of them is taking half-court shots and seeing who can make the most. He got so good that now he shoots from half-court like he's shooting from the free-throw line. He's so strong he can just step into it and make it almost every time. I watched him yesterday after practice. He was taking and making shots from about a foot inside the half-court line. His upper body and lower body are so strong that he doesn't even have to really push the ball. He just shoots it and the ball flies out of his hands. He's actually banned from a lot of things, like lifting weights. He's too big. I think he's an alien. Or I think when he was born his parents locked him up in the basement with weights and didn't let him out until he was 15, then he started playing basketball." So, do we start calling E.G., E.T.?

7. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
40 30.6 11.3 7.3 1.5 0.8 1.0 .518 .000 .698
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 48 by L.A. Lakers in 2007
Back-to-back double-doubles boosted Gasol's total to eight for the season, which places him 17th in the NBA and second among rookies to Greg Oden's 12.

8. Rudy Fernandez, G-F, Portland
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
40 26.5 11.0 3.1 2.1 0.8 0.2 .428 .392 .901
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 24 by Phoenix in 2007
Fernandez missed the first game of his NBA career against Philadelphia because of a left foot injury, but quickly got back into the swing of things with two 3-pointers in a six-point Blazers win against the Nets, followed by consecutive double-digit scoring efforts against the Bobcats and Bucks. Let's hope the foot is fully healed by Valentine's Day so Fernandez can put on a show as the fan's choice in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

9. Jason Thompson, F, Sacramento
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
42 25.0 9.7 6.8 1.0 0.6 0.6 .484 .000 .692
Last Week: The Next 10 | Drafted: 12
It's been a minute since Thompson graced the top 10, but Kings interim head coach Kenny Natt is riding the Rider University product lately, playing Thompson 30-plus minutes in each of the last two games. Thompson's production spiked along with the increased playing time, as he averaged 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games last week.

10. Mario Chalmers, G, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
40 31.2 9.3 2.6 4.5
1.8
0.1 .409 .364 0.723
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: 34
"You have to be really mentally strong -- to keep you out of the slump," Chalmers told the Miami Herald after racking up his third scoreless outing in his last five games played last week. Miami fans hope that Chalmers' 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, four assists and three steals against the Thunder on Sunday is the slump buster that breaks him through the rookie wall for good.
RED = Rookie Leader (Must Qualify)

The Next 10 (alphabetical order): D.J. Augustin (CHA), Roy Hibbert (IND), George Hill (SAS), Courtney Lee (ORL), Kevin Love (MIN), Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL), Anthony Morrow (GSW), Greg Oden (POR), Anthony Randolph (GSW), Marreese Speights (PHI)

Noteworthy

Dragic

Goran Dragic (PHX) doesn't have the statistics to suggest he's made an impact on the Suns this year, but General Manager Steve Kerr gave the rookie guard a vote of confidence last week by adding backup big man Courtney Sims to the roster, rather than searching for another guard to back up Steve Nash. "Goran has played well in practice and he's earned the right to be the backup point guard," Kerr told The Arizona Republic.
D.J. Augustin (CHA) is out of the top 10 after missing three games last week with an abdominal strain. He is back to running in practice and is expected to return to playing in games in about a week.
Greg Oden (POR) would have had the Line of the Week if it wasn't for his teammate Jerryd Bayless' out-of-nowhere performance (above). Against Milwaukee, Oden had his finest game as a pro with 24 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Bill Walker (BOS) was 7-for-10 in 30 minutes played over three Celtics wins last week.
Sonny Weems (DEN) is off the HNPAMY list thanks to two spot appearances last week.
Nathan Jawai (TOR) had an entertaining interview with AOL Fanhouse's Elie Seckbach last week, discussing a close call with a crocodile. If you have six more minutes to spare, here's Seckbach interviewing me.

The HNPAMY (Have Not Played A Minute Yet) Club: J.R. Giddens (BOS), Nathan Jawai (TOR), D.J. White (OKC)
* = assigned to D-League
D-League Watch: Donte Greene (SAC) was recalled from Reno


Korleone Young Drop of the Week: D.J. Augustin CHA (-2) Eddie Gottlieb Rise of the Week: B. Lopez NJN (+2)

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