Drew Packham
Tuesday December 25th, 2007

Yi Jianlian finally had the breakout game everyone from Beijing to Shanghai has been expecting.

And it was that near-perfect performance that helped Yi pass Kevin Durant atop this week's rankings.

Playing against a road-weary Bobcats team (it took them 11 hours to get from Charlotte to Milwaukee), Yi hit his first 12 shots and finished with a career-high 29 points in a 103-99 win on Saturday. Oh, and he pulled down 10 rebounds and had three steals on defense.

"He's getting a feel of the game, getting more aggressive, dunking the basketball," said teammate Michael Redd after the game. "He's versatile. He's like a fourth guard out there sometimes, the way he can shoot."

So can Yi make up ground on Durant in the Rookie of the Year race? Maybe, maybe not.

Judging from the e-mails I receive, Durant is either "overrated," "awful," or good only because he "gets up a lot of shots, no mean feat." Granted, Durant has struggled at times as one of the Sonics' primary offensive threats, but he's also looked brilliant when his shot is falling. Yi, on the other hand, has been steady and efficient as a role player adjusting to the NBA game.

At this point, it appears Durant would need a major collapse to lose the ROY, but at the least, Yi has established himself as a serious threat if he can continue to play like he did in his breakout game. And for one week, at least, he's atop these rankings.

(Send comments, complaints or hype for your favorite rookie to Drew Packham at drew.packham@turner.com.)

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