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ROOKIE REPORT
0317rookies608.jpg
The small gap between Stephen Curry (right) and Tyreke Evans drew readers' ire.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Supporters for Evans make voices heard

By Drew Packham, NBA.com
Posted Mar 17 2010 1:56AM - Updated Mar 17 2010 9:12PM

Boy, can my readers write e-mails.

And I mean that in a good, loving, thankful way.

10_Columnist_Banner_Rookie.jpg

No, really.

After dropping Tyreke Evans from the top spot last week in favor of Stephen Curry, the e-mails hit my inbox with a vengeance. And they just kept coming. I tried to respond to as many as I could, but if I didn't respond to your well-crafted e-mail (and yes, I was very impressed by most of your arguments), just know this: I have two young kids who need my attention. That, and my fingers were sore from trying to justify the move in my replies.

So, to backpedal a little, let me try to explain the move.

First of all, these rankings take into account the rookies' play over the entire season, but also consider recent play. So while Evans has been the most consistent player, I try to give a little credit for what a guy's doing this week. Thus, you saw Dallas PG Rodrigue Beaubois in the top 10 last week while Denver's Ty Lawson (who hasn't played since Feb. 28) is on the outside looking in. Does that mean Beaubois has had the better season? No. Just giving a little credit where credit is due.

And while we're on the topic of my thought process, the Honorable Mention section has been called into question by several readers.

Just to set the record straight, that section should not be considered Nos. 11-15, but rather a way to honor players who have had particularly impressive or noteworthy performances that week.

So back to Tyreke and Steph. What it came down to last week was a gut feeling. I told several readers this, but if I had to vote -- today -- my vote would go to Evans. However, Curry had been wowing me with with his play with an unbelievable February, and I felt like rewarding him with a in the top spot.

The two have clearly separated themselves from the field and regardless of who you're pulling for in the Rookie of the Year race (I did get a few pro-Curry e-mails), you have to admit it has been, and continues to be, a wild ride.

Just look at the back-and-forth that took place this week: Last Wednesday, fresh off his Rookie Rankings snub, Evans puts up his first career triple-double with 19, 10 and 10 in a rout of the Raptors. Three nights later, Curry goes for 35, six and 10 on the Raptors, snapping the Warriors' six-game slide. Not to be outdone, Evans comes back Sunday night by just missing a triple-double with 29, nine and 11 in a win over the Wolves. What does Curry do? Scores 29 points with nine assists in a three-point loss to the Lakers the next night. Are you seeing the see-saw nature of this duel? Evans capped the week off with another near-miss triple-double with 22, 11 and nine in the Kings' loss to the Lakers.

Did you catch all that?

If you haven't been paying attention, tune in, because this last month could get very interesting. (And you can keep the e-mails coming.)

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%
6337.320.35.25.61.40.4.460.254.748
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 4
Evans has a fan in one opponent -- Kobe Bryant. After escaping Sacramento with a 106-99 win Tuesday night, Kobe praised his fellow Philly native, who just missed his second career triple-double but still tallied his fourth straight double-double. "I think Tyreke is a grown man," Bryant said. "I might be a little bit biased because he is from Philadelphia. Philly guys have an all-around game and that's just how it is."

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
6635.916.44.25.51.80.2.461.424.884
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 7
There's one aspect to Curry's game he knows he needs to work on -- knocking down the clutch shots. In the Warriors' 124-121 loss to the Lakers on Monday, Curry put up big numbers (29 points and nine assists), but came up short with the game on the line. With Golden State down three with a chance to tie, Curry -- who had hit 5 of 8 3-pointers -- missed an open trey to tie the game. After the game, Curry "It's something Kobe had to work at, and you see where he's at now," Curry said in the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm not saying he and I are both going to be shooting 90 percent on game-winners, but I'll definitely work on it and get more comfortable with taking big shots."

3. Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
6225.911.22.45.41.00.1.461.356.840
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 21
When it comes to this rookie class, there's no shortage of speed. Denver's Ty Lawson, Dallas' Rodrigue Beaubois, Portland's Patty Mills (who hasn't seen much playing time after an early injury) would all have to be in the discussion. But Collison says there's no debate -- he's the fastest among ALL players. Collison had this to say in the most recent issue of HOOP magazine: "I definitely think I'm the fastest player. I got a chance to watch Ty Lawson's game and he is probably up there. I'd definitely say I'm the fastest." For the record, Knicks point guard Toney Douglas was the fastest rookie in pre-Draft workouts -- according to DraftExpress -- while Collison was fourth behind Texas forward Damion James (who backed out of the draft) and Mills.

4. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5923.313.32.71.20.80.2.450.408.803
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 43
Here's the good news for Thornton: He continued his scoring barrage this week, averaging 19.8 points in the Hornets' four games and has led the bench in scoring in 15 straight games. Thornton now has 15 games in which he's scored at least 20 points this season and he's the first rookie not taken in the first round to do so since Dino Radja, who did it 23 times for the Celtics in 1993-94. The bad news? The Hornets are 3-12 when Thornton scores 20 or more.

5. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
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6533.315.83.66.11.30.3.369.385.813
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 10
Ill say this about Jennings: His teammates have his back. After putting Jennings at No. 5 the last two weeks, Bucks center Andrew Bogut had this to say on his Twitter account (@AndrewMBogut): "SO they got my youngfella @BJ3nnings3 at 5th in the rookie rankings? What a joke. Even though he doesnt care bout ROY. 5th?? 5th?? LIKE 5th?" I, of course, replied to him, defending my actions, which brought on some friendly back-and-forth. Bogut's argument -- that Jennings is on a winning team -- is one I've heard plenty from Jennings' supporters and will, in the end, most likely put him third when it comes time for voting.

6. Wesley Matthews, Utah Jazz
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6722.88.92.11.30.60.2.485.392.805
Last Week: NR | Drafted: NA
Matthews rejoins the top 10 this week in a big way, thanks in part to a career night. Matthews broke out for a career-best 29 points in the Jazz's 119-111 loss to the Thunder on Sunday. It was the most points scored by a Jazz rookie since Karl Malone had 29 in 1986. For all Matthews' offensive prowess, it's his defense that continues to draw praise from coach Jerry Sloan. After defending Detroit's Richard Hamilton, Sloan had this to say: "I was really impressed by the fact that he got his first foul and kept playing," Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I mean, that's what young guys don't usually do, but he has a mentality. I was glad that he really went back, tried to get his body on him, keep him from getting easy shots. He's going to score, but you just hope he has to work for all that."

7. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
6627.39.35.90.70.80.4.487.280.705
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 39
I'm starting to wonder if I'm being blinded by Jerebko's hustle. Sure, he's putting up decent numbers -- among rookies he's ninth in scoring, third in rebounds, fifth in blocks, eighth in steals -- but it's easy to become enamored with the rookie's hustle, especially on defense. In the Pistons' tough loss to the Cavs on Tuesday, Jerebko had an average 10 points and five rebounds, but what impressed me most was his play on defense. Jerebko finished with three steals and has now had at least three steals in four of the last five games after never having more than two in a game all season.

8. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
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6828.913.52.44.41.10.0.413.350.821
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 6
Poor shooting has plagued Flynn all season, and this week was no different. Flynn is a 42 percent shooter (35 percent on 3s) and this week went 8-for-32 (25 percent) from the floor in the Wolves' three losses. Flynn got an close-up view of efficiency Tuesday night in Phoenix as two-time MVP Steve Nash hit 5 of 7 shots for an easy 13 points (with 14 assists) in the Suns' 152-114 laugher. "Every other point guard in the league, they're strong or they're quick or they're really athletic," Flynn told the Star Tribune before their matchup. "Nash, you see him walk on the street and you wouldn't even know he plays basketball. You look at him a little closer to see the way he does it because he's not your natural, prototypical point-guard body type and blazing speed. He's a two-time MVP by the way he plays. That what makes him special."

9. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
6625.48.47.00.80.61.2.497.000.623
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 26
Gibson's rookie season has him in good company. Gibson is currently leading rookies in rebounds, blocks and double-doubles. The last player to finish his rookie season first in all three categories was Pau Gasol with the Grizzlies in 2001-02. Prior to that, Elton Brand did it in '00 with the Bulls, Tim Duncan with San Antonio in '98, Shaquille O'Neal in Orlando in '93 and Dikembe Mutombo in '92 with the Nuggets.

10. Toney Douglas, New York Knicks
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4114.96.91.41.40.50.1.487.389.875
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 29
Another week, another point guard joining the Top 10. In his last three games, Douglas averaged 20.0 points and 5.3 assists while knocking down 57 percent of his 3-pointers (8-for-14). The Knicks have bounced between point guards all season (Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Sergio Rodriguez, even Tracy McGrady), but Douglas has shown signs of a bright future. "The thing that he did was never waver from working as hard as he could work, whether he got 10 minutes or not," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There were a lot of things thrown at him this year in the sense of people changing, people leaving, people playing, people not playing and he never backed off."

Honorable Mention: DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: In last two games (both losses), averaged 15.0 points while going 13-for-18 from the floor; Jrue Holiday, Sixers: Averaged 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals in Philly's three losses; Alonzo Gee, Wizards: In five games since being called up from the D-League, the undrafted rookie out of Alabama is averaging 7.6 points and capped off his week with a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in a loss to the Nuggets; Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies: Had 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in season-high 28 minutes of 104-97 win over Chicago; Chris Hunter, Warriors: Had 22 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes as a starter in 124-121 loss to the Lakers; Wayne Ellington, Wolves: Averaged 13.0 points while hitting 7 of 13 3-pointers in three games;

Dropped out: Rodrigue Beaubois, Omri Casspi

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