SECAUCUS, NJ, Jan. 23, 2008 -- We're in All-Star mode here at the NBA, eagerly anticipating the starters for the 57th mid-season festival to be announced Thursday night on TNT. While it's unlikely that any rookies will participate in the Sunday night portion of All-Star Weekend (unless Yi Jianlian receieved one heckuva online push as a write-in candidate from his fans in China before voting ended last Sunday), the first-year players will get into the mix on Friday and Saturday.

Friday is the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge, an event that pits nine rookies against nine sophomores. The sophomores have won the game the last five years running.

Line of the Week
Sean Williams (NJN)
Jan. 19 vs. LAC
11 points, 11 reb
4-8 FG, 6 blk Video

Last year's rosters for the game consisted of five guards, three forwards and one center on each team.

That makes picking the nine rookies to get the nod to go to the Big Easy a little harder than just taking the guys listed Nos. 1-9 in my rankings.

Here's who I'd take, listed at each position by who I'd take first to who I'd take last:

GUARDS: Juan Carlos Navarro, Nick Young, Mike Conley
FORWARDS: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Jamario Moon, Yi Jianlian, Luis Scola
CENTER: Sean Williams

This year's rookie class is very talented at the forward position. Instead of taking five guards and three forwards, I took three guards and five forwards (although Durant is sort of a hybrid shooting guard, so you could call it four and four).

The toughest decision was leaving off Daequan Cook in favor of Conley and Young. The Miami gunner has been ranked above Young for pretty much the whole season and Conley missed about 20 games because of a sprained shoulder. However, Cook has been cold of late while Young is getting back into the groove for the surging Wizards, and Conley makes it because every All-Star team needs a pass-first point guard.

At forward, the two guys who were difficult to keep out were Jeff Green and Al Thornton, but the five I chose over those two are certainly deserving.

Even though this is the Rookie Rankings, let's look at what their opponents, the sophomore squad, might look like.

The nine sophomores selected to compete in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge last season (when they were rookies) were:

GUARDS: Jordan Farmar, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy, Marcus Williams
FORWARDS: Andrea Bargnani, Paul Millsap, Adam Morrison
CENTER: Jorge Garbajosa

You can eliminate Foye (knee), Morrison (knee), Garbajosa (leg) and Williams (foot) from this year's lineup as they've all missed most or all of the first half of the season because of injuries. That leaves five remaining holdovers from last year. Out of those five, two (Gay, Roy) are "stone cold lead pipe locks" as Mike and Mike would say.

If you look at the sophomore leaders in PRA (points+rebounds+assists), only two other holdovers are in the top 10 (Millsap, Farmar). Bargnani is 13th.

Here's the sophomores I'd take to Crescent City this year:

GUARDS: Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Daniel Gibson, Jordan Farmar
FORWARDS: Ronnie Brewer, Craig Smith, Kelenna Azubuike
CENTER: LaMarcus Aldridge

Last year's No. 1 pick, Bargnani, is left out because his numbers have declined across the board and Millsap is the toughest omission, but I take Farmar as my ninth guy because of the marked improvement he's shown on the court this year.

Let's not forget Saturday night, when Moon will be representing the Raptors and all of the rookie class in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. The 27-year old's basketball odyssey continues to the stage that propelled Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and Vince Carter into superstardom

Remember, people, Moon was a near cut in Toronto during training camp and wasn't expected by anyone outside of maybe his mom and dad to come in and play as well as he's played this year. With that in mind, I've given up all his other nicknames (Super Jamario, Moon Man, Jamario Speedwagon, etc.) and am going to start calling him Odysseus Moon exclusively. It's classy, it's edgy, it's apropos and it reminds me of Bethlehem Shoals. You can't go wrong with a nickname that conjures up thoughts of FreeDarko's creator.

I was so inspired by the moniker that I designed a t-shirt to help it catch on (apologies for the amatuer hour Photoshop skills):


Can't you see these flying off the shelves in Toronto?

They're not for sale, alas I don't have access to the NBA's t-shirt printing operation, but if I see any reader wearing it down in New Orleans on Saturday night, you're getting an interview.

I know that sounds like a bribe, but whatever, I'm throwing it out there ...

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  • Korleone Young slide of the week: Luis Scola, HOU (-3).
    Eddie Gottlieb rise of the week: J.C. Navarro, MEM; Sean Williams, NJN (+2).

    Overall Rankings - Week 12

    1. Kevin Durant, G-F, Seattle
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    40
    32.9
    19.3
    4.2 2.1 0.8 1.1 .400 .296 .861
    Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 2
    KD started off the week with back-to-back 20-point games, but ended it by going 7-for-25 combined in his next two contests. Whether he's on or he's off, it doesn't seem to matter much these days as the Sonics are 0-fer 2008, dropping all 10 games they've played since Ryan Seacrest broadcasted the ball drop.

    2. Al Horford, F-C, Atlanta
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    36 31.5 8.9
    9.7
    1.3 0.9 1.1 .476 .000 .648
    Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 3
    I just discovered Horford's Rookie Diary on Hawks.com. Most interesting nugget in there so far? "In college, we won two SEC tournaments [in Atlanta] and our second national championship, and I remember how before I got drafted, my mom told me how much she liked the city, and how much she would like for me to play here." What's that saying about "mother knows best"?

    3. Jamario Moon, F, Toronto
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    37 29.5 8.3 6.5 1.1
    1.0
    1.6 .459 .264 .650
    Last Week: 3 | Drafted: Undrafted
    Moon scored a career-high 17 points against the Sixers last Saturday, but the Raptors lost 99-95. Meanwhile, Moon scored just 13 points combined in his other two games last week and Toronto won them both. Is it a trend? The Raptors are 5-6 this season when Moon has 10 field goal attempts or more. One more thing, I'm going on the record and picking Odysseus Moon to win the Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

    4. Sean Williams, C, New Jersey
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    36 21.3 7.6 5.4 0.4 0.6
    2.1
    .554
    .000 .652
    Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 17
    The Nets keep losing (six straight now), but you can't blame Williams. The 6-10 athletic specimen proved he can do more than block shots (first amongst rookies, 10th in the league) as he scored in double figures in back-to-back-to-back games for the first time of his career last week.

    5. Juan Carlos Navarro, G, Memphis
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    41 24.1 10.9 2.2 2.2 0.6 0.0 .441
    .419
    0.831
    Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 40 by Washington in 2002
    La Bomba has played musical chairs with Darko Milicic for dibs on the starting lineup recently because Memphis Coach Marc Iavaroni has been experimenting with big and small player combinations. To Navarro's credit, he hasn't let the role shuffling affect his play. On January 19 he started, played 44 minutes and scored 21 points (a rate of .477 points per minute). On January 21 he came off the bench, played 16 minutes and scored nine points (a rate of .563 points per minute).

    6. Yi Jianlian, F, Milwaukee
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    42 27.5 10.1 5.8 0.9 0.7 1.1 .442 .333 .816
    Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 6
    Yi's rebound and scoring averages have both taken a downward turn in recent weeks and introductions are now necessary. Yi Jianlian, meet rookie wall. Rookie wall, meet Yi Jianlian.

    7. Mike Conley, G, Memphis
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    17 26.2 8.7 2.5
    5.0
    0.9 0.1 .451 .313 .718
    Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 4
    Conley has been worth the wait for Grizzlies fans. The diminuative point guard shined on national TV on Monday, posting the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 assists. Memphis beat the Bulls at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    8. Luis Scola, F-C, Houston
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    41 20.3 7.9 5.1 1.1 0.6 0.2 .498 .000 .644
    Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 56 by San Antonio in 2002
    Going 2-for-17 spread over two games last week doesn't do anything to help Scola's place in the rankings, as Mr. Inconsistency strikes again. Twelve weeks into these rankings and the new plotlines for these capsules become thinner and thinner. With that in mind, your Scola factoid to hold you over for this week comes courtesy of his Wikipedia page: The Argentian forward's full name is Luis Alberto Scola Balvoa.

    9. Jeff Green, F, Seattle
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    41 25.0 9.0 4.8 1.3 0.4 0.6 .429 .105 .695
    Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 5 by Boston
    Green's 15 points against the Rockets on Monday were not enough to end the Sonics' slide. The Georgetown product was hot in the first half, scoring 11 points, but struggled down the stretch by missing two crucial free throws with 1:25 left in a close ball game and got his shot blocked by Yao Ming on a later possession.

    10. Al Thornton, F, L.A. Clippers
    G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
    34 19.6 9.3 3.3 0.6 0.4 0.3 .421 .326 .667
    Last Week: The Next 10 | Drafted: 14
    Welcome back, Al. Thornton has dipped his toes into the top 10 pool a couple times this season already. If he keeps putting together games like the 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting he had in a win against New Jersey last week, he could be wading for a while this time around.
    RED = Rookie Leader (Must Qualify)

    The Next 10 (alphabetical order): Corey Brewer (MIN), Aaron Brooks (HOU), Daequan Cook (MIA), Glen Davis (BOS), Acie Law (ATL), Joakim Noah (CHI), Jason Smith (PHI), Rodney Stuckey (DET), Nick Young (WAS), Thaddeus Young (PHI)


    Noteworthy

    Landry

    Carl Landry (HOU) went 6-for-8 from the field for 19 points and chipped in seven rebounds spread over two Houston wins last week, making up for Scola's aforementioned poor shooting.
    Thaddeus Young (PHI) and Jason Smith (PHI) are turning into a nice two-headed rookie monster as the duo averaged 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds combined in three games last week.
    Kosta Perovic (GSW) finally made his NBA debut after spending most of the season in the D-League, but it was overshadowed by new teammate C.J. Watson who took advantage of his Gatorade Call-Up to the fullest, scoring in double digits in two of his first six games as a pro.
    The HNPAMY (Have Not Played A Minute Yet) Club: Herbert Hill** (PHI), Greg Oden** (POR), Ramon Sessions* (MIL), Marcin Gortat* (ORL), JamesOn Curry* (CHI) and Adam Haluska** (NOH)
    * = 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.