By Drew Packham, NBA.com
Posted Jan 27 2010 10:35AM
The new year has been good to several rookies.
The new decade has brought new opportunities for many first-year players, thanks to increased playing time with their respective teams.
Even guys who were seeing plenty of playing time already are seeing their roles increase. Stephen Curry, a fixture at the top of these rankings has averaged 39.2 minutes in the new year, raising his season average to 33.8. Curry has certainly made the most of it. In January, Curry is averaging 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.9 percent from the field (50.9 percent on 3s) and 87.5 percent from the line.
But Curry isn't the only one making the most of the new year. Here's a look at just three of the many rookies whose minutes -- and production -- are up.
• Hasheem Thabeet has been more aggressive in January -- especially on the defensive end, where the Grizzlies need him most. In the Grizzlies' recent 86-84 win over the Thunder, the UConn center had nine rebounds and four blocks in a career-best 23 minutes, drawing praise from teammates. "I told him, 'That's what you're here for. That's what you're going to get paid to do,'" Zach Randolph told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He just has to control that paint. He doesn't have to score the basketball. He just has to do what he did the last game. It's the best I've ever seen him play."
• A.J. Price has seen his role, and minutes, increase in January. The Pacers point guard has averaged 20.4 minutes in 14 games this decade, averaging 10.4 points (ninth among rookies this month) while helping the Pacers go 7-7. His emergence as the backup to Earl Watson has made T.J. Ford expendable.
• Jordan Hill is finally starting to get playing time for the Knicks, averaging almost 13 minutes per game in January. He's been aggressive on the boards and had one of his best games against the Lakers with eight points and seven rebounds. "Every time we've given him minutes he's responded pretty well," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told The Record last week. "He's surprised us a little bit."
NBA.com'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.
Honorable Mention: DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: Averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in last two games, but his exlusion from the Rookie Challenge (as I predicted last week) will certainly irk his fans; Rodrigue Beaubois, Mavericks: Filling in for Jason Kidd, who was out for personal reasons, Beaubois had 13 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in the Mavericks' 50-point rout of the Knicks.
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