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Darren Collison is averaging 19.8 minutes a game for the Hornets this season.
Chris Graythen/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Making the most of playing time

By Drew Packham,
Posted Feb 10 2010 9:14AM

In this ever-changing world we call the Rookie Rankings, if you snooze, you lose.

Or, in our case, if a rookie gets the injury bug and finds himself in a suit, most likely he's going to find himself on the outside looking in. With so many rookies getting big-time minutes, the difference between the Top 10 and the also-rans can be made up with a few minutes of playing time.

Just ask Marcus Thornton, who slips three spots this week despite a recent stretch in which he became a key cog in the Hornets' offense. Unfortunately, Thornton is nursing a back injury and has missed New Orleans' last three games.


Or ask Ty Lawson, who early in the season was cemented in the middle of the pack, before slipping in part due to his January absence with a sprained ankle (and the improved play of the other rookies). Lawson has regained his top-10 status, but it took him some time.

Or maybe Wesley Matthews would know how it feels. Matthews became a starter for the Jazz through much of 2009, then saw his playing time dip in 2010 with the return of C.J. Miles from injury. February, though has been good to Matthews and he has responded to increased playing time, putting him on the cusp of the top 10 once again.

On the other hand, a little playing time can go a long way.

Take Darren Collison as a prime example. The Hornets point guard has catapulted up the rankings while filling in quite admirably for Chris Paul, and should stay among the Top 5 with Paul sidelined for the next several weeks.

While these rankings, in general, are a reflection of the players' accomplishments over the entire season, it's easy to become swayed by recent performance. For one thing, it makes for a little variety from week-to-week and it's gratifying to reward a player for making the most of their playing time.'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
After watching Evans almost single-handedly lead the Kings back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 118-114 win in overtime, Knicks' play-by-play announcer Al Trautwig had to catch himself. "We are watching a future star. He's there already, this kid." Indeed he is. Evans was brilliant in the fourth quarter, getting into the lane for layup after layup to lead the comeback. Evans finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to help Sacramento snap an 11-game road losing streak. The future is now.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 7
Here's an example of Curry being wise beyond his years: After being invited to participate in the Three-Point Contest this weekend in Dallas, Curry, surprised that teammate Anthony Morrow was left out, talked to a league representative about giving his spot to Morrow. "I brought that question up, but they couldn't guarantee that he would get the spot," Curry told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I wanted to have a representative from the Warriors." Curry is 11th in the league in 3-point shooting at 42.3 percent, which is tops among all rookies.

3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 10
It was a big week for Brandon Jennings. First, he made his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, getting a win over the Knicks, whom he secretly wanted to draft him. Jennings finished with 22 points and eight assists in the Bucks' 114-107 win, saying more than once afterward, "I'm over it. I'm happy where I'm at." Then, Saturday night he was honored with his first bobblehead night, a Bradley Center sellout, no less. "It really doesn't look anything like me," he said. "It's cool. My first bobblehead, something I always will remember. I like the fact they gave me a little chin hair down here and I have my little Mohawk, so that was real cool." And in other, totally unrelated news: Jennings is back on Twitter. You can follow him at @MosTWanTEDlilb.

4. Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 21
Since Collison took over for the injured Chris Paul, the Hornets have lost four of six, but Collison is hardly to blame. In that span, he is averaging 18.3 points, 9.6 assists and had back-to-back career scoring nights with 24 against the Bobcats and 27 two nights later against the Magic. Sure, his turnovers are high (4.0 per game), but Collison insists the pressure is off. "I always had that confidence in myself," Collison recently told, "as well as my teammates and my coach had that confidence in me. All I have to do is just go out there and play my game. I don't really have to think too much and I don't feel any pressure."

5. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 6
Before Tuesday's blowout loss to the Sixers, the Wolves were on a four-game wnning streak, capped off by a win over the Grizzlies -- with Flynn on the bench the entire fourth quarter. Now before you rush to hand the starting job to Ramon Sessions, you have to understand this: Flynn ASKED to stay on the bench. With Sessions playing well but tiring, coach Kurt Rambis was ready to put back Flynn, but the rookie point guard suggested the Wolves would be better with Sessions at the point. "That means a lot to me as a coach, that players will make sacrifices for the benefit of the team," Rambis said. "I really appreciated that from Jonny." Teammate Al Jefferson was impressed by the gesture. "When I heard what Jonny said, I couldn't believe it," Jefferson said. "When I was a rookie, I wanted to be out there playing. That showed a lot of class on Jonny's part."

6. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 23
Tuesday's game in New York had special meaning for Casspi. With a large Jewish population in New York, the Knicks honored Casspi, the first Isrealie in the NBA by calling it Jewish Heritage Night and playing the Israeli national anthem before tipoff. "Obviously, it's not another game for me," Casspi told The New York Times before the game. And Casspi played with extra motivation. Casspi came out hot, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the first half. "This is not a regular game for me and it was important for me to start strong ... show the coach and everybody that I am here to play and focus on basketball," Casspi said after the Kings' 118-114 overtime win.

7. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 18
Lawson is apparently sore for being left off the roster for this weekend's Rookie Challenge. Earlier this week, Lawson tweeted the following: "The more I think about this rookie game... the more blown I become...smh at whoever picked the team." Well, for his information (and everyone else's), the league's assistant coaches picked the rosters and, as I mentioned last week, were limited to four backcourt players, four frontcourt players and one wildcard. With so many quality guards, someone had to get squeezed. In this case, it's Lawson who is seventh in scoring among rookies (sixth among rookie guards) and sixth in assists (also sixth among guards, obviously). If the coaches could pick the top nine, regardless of position, Lawson may have had a better case.

8. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 43
Thornton was rolling before injuring his back last week in a loss to the Thunder. Thornton has since missed three games. Before the injury, the Hornets' guard had scored in double digits in seven straight games, averaging 18.7 points while hitting 43.2 percent of his 3-point attempts. On the back injury, Thornton doesn't expect it to keep him out much longer. "It's getting there but it's a day-to-day process and I just have to see how it goes,'' Thornton told the Times Picayune.

9. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 39
In three games this week, Jerebko was especially active on the boards and averaged a double-double (exactly 10 points and 10 rebounds per game). Especially impressive was his 20-point, seven-rebound performance in the Pistons' win over the Nets, in which he was 9-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. That performance left teammate Ben Wallace praising the 6-foot-10 Jerebko's outside skills. "He's never going to grow into a center; he does too many other things so well," Wallace told the Detroit Free Press. "We're going to keep him on the perimeter. He's going to be a beast on the perimeter."

10. DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 37
After a week away from the rankings, Blair scored in double digits in three of four games this week. Blair started the week (and rodeo road trip) off right with a 20-point, six-rebound performance in the Spurs' 115-113 win in Sacramento. He hit his first nine shots (finishing 9-for-11) and started the second quarter by scoring 11 of the Spurs' first 13 points. "That was just me playing hard," Blair said. "Hard playing pays off."

Honorable Mention: James Harden, Thunder: Bumped for the first time from Top 10 since Nov. 24. Had his first double-digit scoring game Tuesday in Thunder's last five; Taj Gibson, Bulls: Had his second scoreless game of the season, then bounced back with 23 points and 20 rebounds over next three games; Wesley Matthews, Jazz: Had an impressive 16-point, five-rebound game in win over Portland while hitting all six shots. Averaged 10.3 points in three games this week; Wayne Ellington, Wolves: Averaged 8.6 points in three games this week, knocking down all four 3-pointers he attempted and 10-for-15 overall; Rodrigue Beaubois, Mavericks: Scored a career-high 17 points while hitting 4-for-5 3-pointers in loss to Wolves; Dante Cunningham, Trail Blazers: Scored career-high 14 and hauled in six rebounds in Tuesday's 89-77 loss to the Thunder; Chase Budinger, Rockets: Had his second double-double of the season (10 points, 12 rebounds), but it came on 3-for-12 shooting and in the Rockets' 99-66 loss.

Dropped out: Harden, Gibson

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