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ROOKIE REPORT
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Despite going undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft, Wesley Matthews has become a key contributor for the Jazz.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Matthews handed reins in Utah

By Drew Packham, NBA.com
Posted Mar 3 2010 4:00PM

Wesley Matthews' unbelievable rookie season with the Jazz just keeps getting better.

Earlier this season Matthews had surprisingly become a fixture in the Jazz's rotation, starting in 19 games thanks to his attitude of doing "whatever you need me to do." But at the trade deadline, the Jazz dealt three-year veteran Ronnie Brewer to the Memphis Grizzlies, in essence sending Matthews a message: You're our guy.

"Everybody was mad," Matthews told Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com's TrueHoop. "I was mad and I benefited the most out of it. Brewer was like my older brother. We still talk every day. He took me under his wing as soon as I stepped foot here in Utah."

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Since the deal, Matthews has started all seven games, averaging 10.3 points in 28.4 minutes while hitting 47.5 percent of his shots. More importantly, the shooting guard out of Marquette is starting for one of the West's powers just seven months after being passed over by all 30 teams in the 2009 Draft.

"It's incredible," Matthews told the Deseret News of his meteoric first season. "It's a testament to all the young kids out there that if you work hard and are ready, good things can happen."

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.

1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5537.120.54.95.41.50.4.466.255.756
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 4
Evans' candidacy for Rookie of the Year gained one big supporter this week -- Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. The former NBA All-Star announced his official endorsement and urged fans to attend Rally for RekeROY Night on March 10 as the Kings host the Raptors. Politics aside, Evans' best case for ROY has come on the hardwood. Evans was instrumental in wins this week over the Clippers and Jazz, leaving Utah coach Jerry Sloan raving. "He's a terrific player," Sloan said. "He's a big man. It's tough to try to put someone on him that can keep him out of the paint. He can beat you with the dribble. He can go inside and post you up. He's probably one of the biggest point guards since Magic or Oscar Robertson, someone like that. He's got a big body and very strong -- well poised for a young man."

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
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5935.615.74.25.31.80.2.460.408.875
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 7
Curry continues to amaze with his dazzling plays. In case you missed it, do a search on YouTube for "What a Move, Rook" and see his fake on Denver's Chris Andersen. The Warriors lost to the Nuggets in front of a national TV audience, but Curry had 30 points and 13 assists, and his coach explained his love for the mature point guard to TNT. "I don't like to play bad rookies," Don Nelson said. "I like to play good rookies, and I've got a good one. Steph Curry is going to be a sensational point guard. We love him to death. He's the perfect rookie to have, and I play him every moment I can."

3. Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
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5523.710.42.44.61.00.0.451.333.849
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 21
Collison was rewarded Monday for his monster month. Collison became the first Hornets player since Chris Paul in 2005-06 to be named Western Conference Rookie of the Month. Collison led all rookies in scoring (21.6 ppg), assists (8.3 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and minutes (41.7 mpg) in February. "Poise and confidence and leadership on the floor are areas that have all grown," Hornets coach Jeff Bower told The Times-Picayune. "I think his offensive game is something he continues to build and improve through his experiences. He's learning how to utilize his speed and quickness to the fullest advantage." In four games this week, Collison averaged 20.8 points and 8.5 assists and scored a career-high 35 (on 15-for-21 shooting) in a loss to the Mavericks.

4. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
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5222.312.32.61.00.60.1.444.402.792
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 43
Thornton continues to be one of the Hornets' best scoring threats. In four games this week, Thornton averaged 23.5 points on 49.2 percent shooting (57.8 on 3-pointers). The week was capped off by a 30-point performance in a 106-92 loss the Spurs, which drew praise from San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. "He was incredible today," Ginobili said. "At the beginning of the game, we said we would prefer him to take shots rather than attack the rim. But he started making every shot possible and attacking the rim, too. He was really impressive. Our previous game here he played well, too. A rookie with a lot of potential."

5. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
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5933.216.13.66.11.30.3.368.380.810
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 10
Last week, it was noted that Jennings' shooting numbers have continued to tail off, and this week was no exception. In four games, Jennings was 15-for-45 (33.3 percent) from the field and 5-for-13 on 3-pointers. But one person not panicking is Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "There's no question that it's bothering him," Skiles told Hoopsworld.com. "It has bothered him. We're talking to him about it. Where you would get really concerned is if he wasn't working at, if other parts of his game started to deteriorate, and things like started happening. That hasn't been the case. He almost always has a good floor game out there; his defense has gotten better over the year, he's trying to play to win out there and he's working constantly on his shot. Teams have made some adjustments and a lot of young players have to figure out exactly where are my shots gonna come from in a game so I'm ready when they present themselves. Sometimes he's a little bit caught off guard still and it just comes with experience."

6. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
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6129.013.72.54.41.10.0.416.350.818
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 6
Wolves GM David Kahn still envisions a day when Flynn and Ricky Rubio are teammates. In a recent interview with TrueHoop, Kahn reiterated his belief that Rubio will join the Wolves in time for the 2011-12 season. "I believe to this day that Ricky will prove to be a very special NBA player, and I fully expect him to be here in the next year-and-a-half." That would put Flynn -- who averaged 8.7 points and 6.7 assists in three losses this week -- as a two-year veteran and de facto "mentor" to the Spanish point guard. Should make for an interesting dynamic.

7. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
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6025.48.67.00.80.61.2.494.000.621
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 26
Jerebko took home Rookie of the Month honors in the East, but Gibson may have a legitimate case. Take a look at the numbers. Jerebko: 13 games (6-7 record), 10.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.5 bpg; Gibson: 14 games (8-6 record), 9.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.8 bpg. Not taking anything away from Jerebko, but Gibson had three double-doubles and helped pick up the slack with Joakim Noah sidelined by his own bout of plantar fasciitis. "With Joakim out, I've been trying to pick my scoring up," Gibson told the Chicago Tribune. "I got a second wind since Brad (Miller) told me that this is the playoff push. You have to bring energy."

8. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
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5826.89.05.6070.70.4.495.286.690
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 39
For a guy who never has a play called for him, Jerebko is doing all right. The Swede was named the Eastern Conference's Rookie of the Month on Monday, and Pistons coach John Kuester says it's due to his hard work. "Here's a guy that gets Rookie of the Month and we don't run any plays for him at all," Kuester said before Tuesday's loss to the Celtics. "That speaks volumes for a young man like that, to be able to (be) a player like that who doesn't demand the basketball, but yet by the same token finds a way to score. Any time you talk about who consistently plays with a tremendous amount of energy on our team, Jonas' name is always one of the first two names mentioned. What an honor for this young man to get, who wasn't a first-round pick. He's deserving of it, and he's just a wonderful kid to be able to coach." Jerebko celebrated his 23rd birthday Tuesday with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and first since Dec. 9.

9. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
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5827.811.75.01.40.80.3.465.379.669
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 23
Since the trade-deadline acquisition of Carl Landry, Casspi's numbers have taken a hit. In those six games, Casspi has averaged 7.7 points, 3.8 rebounds while hitting on just 39.1 percent of his shots. "I think Omri looks a little tired sometimes," Kings coach Paul Westphal told the Sacramento Bee this week. "I think this homestand and the way the games are spaced, I'm hopeful will get him some of his bounce back. We have a lot of confidence in Omri, and because of his fighting spirit, we know he'll figure it out."

10. Wesley Matthews, Utah Jazz
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6022.28.32.01.20.60.1.473.346.785
Last Week: NR | Drafted: FA
Jazz fans have been some of the most outspoken when it comes to campaigning for Matthews in these rankings, flooding my inbox with complaints about his absence. (For the record, I've kept a close watch on Matthews, who has made the top 10 in six of the 16 weeks this season.) Those fans will be pleased to know Matthews still has some tricks up his sleeve. "There's a lot to my game that I don't even know yet," Matthews told ESPN.com. "I've unveiled some of it, but I'm still young. I'm still going to keep getting better."

Honorable Mention: DeJuan Blair, Spurs: Averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in four games; Jrue Holiday, Sixers: Scored a career-high 23 (15 in the first quarter) in loss to Magic on Monday; Serge Ibaka, Thunder: Had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in 20-point rout of Raptors; Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies/Dakota Wizards: Averaged 18.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 5.0 blocks in last two games with NBA D-League's Wizards; Reggie Williams, Warriors: Recent D-League call-up had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in NBA debut Monday.

Dropped out: Chase Budinger

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