SECAUCUS, NJ, Dec. 19, 2007 -- The Hawks are 6-3 in the month of December and would be the No. 7 seed in the East if the playoffs started today.

What is the main difference between this year's Atlanta team and the one that went 97-231 (.295) over the last four seasons combined?

The answer isn't new blue and red jerseys replacing their old red and yellow ones.

It's also not the improved services of a new point guard drafted in the lottery, as Tyronn Lue and Anthony Johnson still take the lion's share of the minutes from budding rookie Acie Law.

And it's not team leader Joe Johnson taking his game to another level either, as JJ's points and field goal percentage have both slipped slightly from a year ago.

The answer is Al Horford.

Horford, the No. 3 pick in June, is quite simply, an equipment upgrade for the Hawks. Their only true big men last season were Zaza Pachulia and Shelden Williams, two players who, if you described as "serviceable," would make you be considered generous.

He reported to the Hawks on Day 1 with a championship pedigree and a body that John Henry would envy.

His experience of going 12-0 in the NCAA tournament over the last two years was far different than his teammates who didn't even sniff the postseason. His hulking, 6-10, 245-pound frame was in stark contrast to the pipe-cleaner body of other hyped rookies Kevin Durant and Corey Brewer.

Line of the Week
Sean Williams (NJN)
12.18 vs. SAC
11 points, 7 reb, 8 blk
4-10 FG, 3-4 FT
After coming out of the gates strong and steady through the first 20 games, Horford's own strength was his downfall in game No. 21 as he misjudged a block attempt on Toronto's T.J. Ford and was called for a flagrant foul for crashing down on the diminuative guard with his hefty arms.

The flagrant resulted in an automatic one-game suspension for Horford and an ambulance ride to the hospital for Ford.

Rather than worry about the suspension, or clearing his name and assuring the media that it wasn't a dirty foul (which it wasn't), Horford's first concern was the well-being of Ford. The rookie visited Ford in the hospital the night of the game, an act of maturity and sportsmanship that belies the "1986" printed on the Date of Birth line on his Dominican Republic birth certificate.

In the game Horford missed due to suspension, the hot Hawks fell to the Pistons by 10, something that Big Al's 9.0 points per game average surely could have helped.

Unfazed by the loss he couldn't help and the foul he didn't mean to make, Horford returned to the lineup and his production didn't skip a beat. He chipped in with six points in a win against the Bobcats and dominated the Jazz with 17 points and seven rebounds in another Atlanta W.

Horford overtakes the top spot from Durant this week, and if the former Florida Gator and his new team continue at this rate, he could be staying at No. 1 for a while.

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  • Overall Rankings - Week 7

    1. Al Horford, F-C, Atlanta
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    23 31.5 9.0
    9.9
    1.1 0.9 1.1 .503 .000 .629
    Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 3
    Back in August, the 2007 Draft class congregated at the Rookie Photo Shoot and voted that Horford was the player "most ready to contribute right away." It turns out they were right.

    2. Kevin Durant, G-F, Seattle
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    25
    33.3
    19.7
    4.4 1.9
    1.0
    1.2 .394 .304 .847
    Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 2
    Durant followed up his shining, shimmering, splendid MSG debut by going 4-for-17 from the floor against the Timberwolves with eight turnovers and shooting 3-for-11 against Utah, matching his season low in points with six. He surrenders the top spot for the first time this season.

    3. Yi Jianlian, F, Milwaukee
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    24 26.8 10.4 5.5 0.8 0.5 1.0 .466 .357 .803
    Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 6
    Remember in the Poltergeist II where the creepy little girl says, "They're baaaacckkkkk"? She could have been referring to Yi supporters who have some wind in their sails after a spectacular week from the Bucks rookie, averaging 15.8 points on .640 shooting over four games.

    4. Jamario Moon, F, Toronto
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    22 29.8 8.3 6.8 1.0 0.8 1.7 .442 .233 .682
    Last Week: 3 | Drafted: Undrafted
    After not reaching double-digit scoring since December 1, Moon dropped 13 points and 16 points in back-to-back games with the Celtics and Clippers last week. His consecutive games with a block streak has reached 18 games, good, but not quite at Josh Smith level.

    5. Juan Carlos Navarro, G, Memphis
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    24 23.3 10.9 2.0 2.0 0.7 0.0 .446 .405 0.909
    Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 40 by Washington in 2002
    Navarro had his third 25-plus point outing of the season with his 27-point outburst in an upset win over the Magic. Kevin Durant is the only other rookie to score 25 points or more in a game this season.

    6. Jeff Green, F, Seattle
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    25 22.8 8.9 5.4 0.9 0.4 0.4 .433 .083 .697
    Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 5 by Boston
    It must be nice for Sonics fans to hear Green say this about the tandem he creates with Durant, "We learn a lot from each other, helping each other out. You know, he has his games where he's on, and I have mine. We're going to complement each other by creating mismatches against every team we play against. We'll be very dangerous. This is our rookie year. We're going through tough times right now, and the only thing we can do is just get better."

    7. Sean Williams, C, New Jersey
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    20 20.0 7.1 4.8 0.4 0.6
    2.2
    .548
    .000 .690
    Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 17
    Williams' line against the Kings on Tuesday: 11 points, seven rebounds, one assist, two steals ... EIGHT BLOCKS! Reading across his line is like going to a party and assessing the atmosphere and being pleased by the hors d'oeuvres, drinks and music but then being TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by the Wii Bowling. (Don't knock it till you try it.)

    8. Daequan Cook, G, Miami
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    15 19.4 9.5 2.5 0.6 0.5 0.1 .442 .340 .929
    Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 21 by Philadelphia
    Here's some motivation for Daequan Cook to stick through the tough times in Miami: Bruce Bowen made the Heat's 20th Anniversary Team and only played 109 games with the franchise. If Cook can do what he's doing for five years, he would be a virtual lock for the 25th Anniversary squad.

    9. Luis Scola, F-C, Houston
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    24 18.9 6.3 4.6 1.0 0.5 0.2 .528 .000 .600
    Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 56 by San Antonio in 2002
    In two games last week, Scola had more fouls and turnovers (nine) than points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks combined (seven).

    10. Glen Davis, F-C, Boston
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    17 13.5 5.1 3.6 0.3 0.6 0.4 .510 .000 .739
    Last Week: The Next 10 | Drafted: 35 by Seattle
    The No. 10 spot continues to be a tough spot to climb up the rankings from, as Nick Young and Corey Brewer have made one-and-done appearances in recent weeks. Now it's Big Baby's turn to try after putting up 16 points and nine rebounds in his first career start last week.
    RED = Rookie Leader (Must Qualify)

    The Next 10 (alphabetical order): Arron Afflalo (DET), Corey Brewer (MIN), Jared Dudley (CHA), Spencer Hawes (SAC), Acie Law (ATL), Joakim Noah (CHI), Jason Smith (PHI), Al Thornton (LAC), Mario West (ATL), Nick Young (WAS)


    Noteworthy

    Wright

    Brandan Wright (GSW) hasn't gotten as much attention in the Rookie Rankings as one might expect for a No. 8 pick. With that said, Wright, Arron Afflalo (DET) and Chris Richard (MIN) deserve some ink for being the latest rooks to top the 10-point scoring plateau in a single game last week.
    The Trail Blazers win streak is at eight games and maybe you can thank Josh McRoberts (POR) for their success. The last time he played was the last time they lost.
    Morris Almond (UTA) headlines the D-League news as he scored 38 points on 15-for-37 shooting (!!) in his third game with the Flash.
    Mike Conley (MEM) is on the mend from a shoulder injury and could return to practice soon.
    Despite shooting just 4-for-14 in 25 minutes over the Wizards recent three-game winning streak, Nick Young (WAS) still has hold of his spot in the starting lineup.
    The HNPAMY (Have Not Played A Minute Yet) Club: Herbert Hill** (PHI), Brandon Wallace* (BOS), Greg Oden** (POR), Oleksiy Pecherov** (WAS), Rodney Stuckey** (DET), Ramon Sessions* (MIL), Marcin Gortat* (ORL), JamesOn Curry* (CHI), Adam Haluska** (NOH) and Kosta Perovic* (GSW)
    * = assigned to the D-League
    ** = injured

    Got beef with the rankings or have a comment or question for the Rookie Report? Send the Report an e-mail.