Well, the time has come to make my pick for T-Mobile Rookie of the Year.
Midway through the season, it appeared my job would become an easy one as Sacramento's Tyreke Evans bulled his way -- quite literally at times -- into the forefront. My inbox was fairly quiet as no one really had much of a bone to pick with my placement of Evans in the top spot. (For the season, he headlined 17 of my 23 Rookie Rankings.)
Then the new year came, and on came the Warriors' Stephen Curry. And he kept coming. And coming. And the emails started trickling in. Then pouring in. The Warriors' rookie passed and swiped and shot his way right back into the dialogue, making many forget what Evans had been doing all along -- dominating his opponents and putting fear into opposing coaches who were forced to game plan for a 20-year-old rookie.
And in the end, that's what it came down to for me -- Evans was consistently the best rookie of this class and I would regret not naming him my top rookie.
This is not to take anything away from what Curry and Brandon Jennings did in their rookie campaigns. Curry was nothing short of brilliant (and I'm embarrassed to say, better than I had predicted) and Jennings was crucial to leading the Bucks to the playoffs, something I would have laughed at before the season.
But Evans is a truly special player who had a truly special season. Can you imagine in five years, if Evans, by some miracle, does not win the Rookie of the Year, how odd that will sound to say that the Kings' rookie averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists and did not win the Rookie of the Year?
It just wouldn't sound right. And hopefully, the voters will get it right.
I personally don't get an official vote, but if I did there would be no doubt in my mind who is most deserving of Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Jamir Evans.
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.
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 4
It's a good thing Evans locked up his 20-5-5 accomplishment on Monday. With 24 points in the Kings' 117-107 loss to the Rockets, Evans guaranteed he would finish the season as just the fourth rookie to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. The others, as you all know by now if you've been following these Rankings, were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. "Just to have my name with those guys who did it -- that's an elite three right there and to have my name added is just a blessing," Evans said. Evans' rookie season came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday, as the rookie was ejected after scoring 10 points in just under 16 minutes of action in the Kings' loss to the Lakers.
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 7
Curry had one of his best games at the perfect time. With coach Don Nelson tied with Lenny Wilkens for the all-time wins record, Curry had a near quadruple-double to lift the Warriors to a historic 116-107 win over the Wolves. Curry finished with 27 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds and seven steals as he continued his scorching end to the season. He must be winning over voters with his late push, and the numbers are hard to argue with. Check out his April: In seven games, he's averaging 24.1 points, 8.1 assists and shot 44.7 percent from three-point land (21-for-47) as Golden State has gone 4-3.
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 10
Jennings will certainly get votes for Rookie of the Year, based primarily on helping the Bucks to the playoffs. I understand their argument; I just don't agree with it. In no way do I want to take away from what Jennings has done this season. The lanky lefty has been a revelation this season, finishing third among rookies in scoring, assists and steals; second in 3-pointers made, ninth in rebounds while starting all 82 games (assuming he starts Wednesday's finale). Jennings has been brilliant at the point, but I owe the Bucks' success more to the breakout season of Andrew Bogut and the addition of John Salmons. Still, not many observers -- me included -- saw Jennings having this kind of impact this early, and it will be fun to see him develop in Milwaukee.
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 26
It's easy to overlook Gibson. The unassuming power forward out of USC isn't a flashy scorer. He does the dirty work out of the spotlight in Chicago. But what he's given to the Bulls this season can't be overlooked. Just look at his numbers: He leads all rookies in four categories: rebounds, double-doubles (17), field-goal percentage and blocks. Sure, it's been a weak year for big men, but Gibson has been a steadying influence and pleasant surprise for the Bulls.
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 43
Back in January I dubbed Jonas Jerebko of the Pistons the steal of the draft. Can I have a do over? If so, my pick would no doubt be Thornton, who was taken by the Heat with the 43rd pick before being traded to New Orleans for a pair of second-round picks. Since GM Jeff Bower took over head coaching duties, Thornton (and fellow rookie Darren Collison) has blossomed. Since the All-Star break, Thornton has been second only to Curry in scoring, averaging 20.2 points. For the season, Thornton is fourth among rookies in scoring, third in 3-pointers made (115, setting a Hornets franchise record), sixth in field-goal percentage, and fifth in free-throw shooting.
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 21
It's hard to believe that Collison was the 10th -- yes, 10th -- point guard taken in the draft. Think some of those GMs would like a do-over? Collison shined in New Orleans -- especially after Chris Paul went down with injury -- and looks to be the real deal. Since the All-Star break, Collison leads all rookies with 8.5 assists per game and will finish the season sixth in scoring (12.3 ppg), second in field-goal percentage (.473) and second in double-doubles (13). Paul's injury gave the Hornets -- and the rest of the league -- a glimpse into Collison's potential, which New Orleans could either use as a potent 1-2 punch with CP3 or as a bargaining chip in future trade talks. Either way, Collison worked out in a big way.
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 6
Flynn had his struggles this season, especially adjusting to the Kurt Rambis' triangle offense. The Syracuse product may have put up bigger numbers in an offense like, say, the Warriors or Kings, where he would have been given free reign, but he still put up respectable numbers in his first season. Flynn will finish the season fifth among rookies in scoring and assists, fourth in free-throw percentage, and seventh in field-goal percentage and steals. With the potential to land the top pick (and a shot at John Wall or Evan Turner), it will be interesting to see what direction Minnesota takes. "In terms of our players who have grown this season, Jonny has made the most significant strides," Rambis told the Pioneer Press. "So much was thrown at him. If he continues to improve throughout his career, the way he's done this year, the sky is the limit for him."
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: NA
Talk about finding a diamond in the rough. Heck, Matthews wasn't even in the rough before the season. The fact that he's become a starter -- and a good one at that -- for the Jazz speaks volumes to the hard work Matthews has put in. His story has been well-documented, from going undrafted out of Marquette to becoming poster child for everything coach Jerry Sloan stands for (see: defense and intensity). His numbers haven't been eye-popping, but solid considering he's one of the Jazz's last options offensively. For the season, Matthews is ninth among rookies in scoring, third in free-throw and three-point percentage (ninth in 3s made) and 12th in assists.
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 39
In a season where just about everything went wrong in Detroit, a bright spot was the emergence of Jerebko. The first Swedish-born player in the NBA, Jerebko is 10th among rookies in scoring, third in rebounds, fourth in blocks and eighth in steals. His coach, John Kuester thinks Jerebko deserves to be on the All-Rookie team, primarily because of his energy and defensive efforts. "He's done so many things throughout the entire year," Kuester told the Detroit Free Press. "I've been so pleased with his energy, his fearlessness in terms of who he has to defend -- from LeBron to Chris Bosh. He's approached it as: 'Hey, I can guard anybody.'" That refreshing attitude has won me over and I can't find a reason not to reward Jerebko for his breakout first season.
Last Week: NR | Drafted: 23
This final spot was a tough one, but I have to go with the man with an entire nation on his shoulders. Casspi, the first Israeli-born player in the NBA, burst onto the scene early in the season, then faded a bit down the stretch, possibly due to his many obligations. Still, his body of work is impressive: Among rookies, he's seventh in scoring, sixth in rebounds, fifth in field-goal percentage, eighth in three-point shooting, seventh in 3-pointers made. All this while playing the role of "rock star" (teammate Jon Brockman's words) in Sacramento -- and especially on the road where throngs of fans , greeting his throngs of fans every city the Kings visit.
Honorable Mention: James Harden, Thunder: The third-overall pick was a key role player in OKC's playoff run and was overshadowed as by other rookies getting bigger minutes. Still, he put up decent numbers: 9.9 ppg (9th) while hitting 90 3-pointers (5th); DeJuan Blair, Spurs: Made the most of his minutes, leading rookies in rebounds per 48 minutes (16.7) while scoring 7.6 points in just under 18 minutes per game; Terrence Williams, Nets: Came on late to average finish with averages of 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists; Ty Lawson, Nuggets: Was a surprisingly capable catalyst off the bench, giving Denver a change of pace at the point. Could be a steal with the 18th pick; Serge Ibaka, Thunder: Quietly a key component to the Thunder's defensive success, finishing second among rookies in blocks and fourth in rebounds; Jrue Holiday, Sixers: Showed signs of promise after taking over starting job at PG, finishing sixth among rookies in assists (3.7), while averaging 8.1 points
Dropped out: Reggie Williams, Terrence Williams