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Jennings takes unique path to top

With No. 1 pick Blake Griffin sidelined to start the season, point guards are garnering most of the early attention in this rookie class. A quartet of ball-handlers leads the first Rookie Power Rankings of the season.

Though it's still very early, a number of steals appear to be emerging, including second-round selections DeJuan Blair of San Antonio and Chase Budinger of Houston, as well as No. 23 pick Omri Casspi of Sacramento.

(All stats and records are through Nov. 3.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
 
 
1Brandon Jennings
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Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings already looks like a seasoned veteran, which could be bad news for colleges looking to sign possible one-and-done star players in the future. Jennings has credited his fast development to playing professionally in Europe last season, when he became the first player to graduate high school, skip college and play overseas. Jennings almost had a triple-double in his debut at Philadelphia, and on Tuesday he scored 25 points against last year's Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose, and the Bulls in Milwaukee's 83-81 loss. The 6-foot-1 Jennings leads all rookies in scoring (22.0), ranks second in assists (5.3) and is fifth in rebounds (4.0).
 
2Stephen Curry
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Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry, the early rookie leader in assists and steals, became the first Warriors first-round pick to start a season opener since Todd Fuller in 1996. With Curry having played more than 35 minutes in each of his first two games, it's clear that he'll be depended on to produce early and often. Curry got an education in how to play the position when he went up against Steve Nash, who had 18 points and 20 assists in a Suns victory against the Warriors in Phoenix.
 
3Jonny Flynn
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Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Flynn is averaging 14.8 points in only 24.0 minutes. Why hasn't he been playing more? He leads all rookies with 3.8 turnovers and is sharing time with the more experienced Ramon Sessions. "I'm making it very difficult on him," Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. "I'm not letting him go out there and run pick-and-rolls all the time, which is what he wants to do. I'm challenging him to step out of that zone. He's still learning to make accurate decisions, and in those situations, that's when I have to go to a more stable point guard in Ramon."
 
4Tyreke Evans
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Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Evans impressed with a 22-point effort against Chris Paul and the Hornets in the second game of the season. But he sprained his ankle the next game, a loss at San Antonio, and then was limited by the injury in Sacramento's home opener, going 0-of-4 from the field in 24 minutes and watching backup point guard Beno Udrih play during crunch time in an overtime victory against Memphis. Evans says the ankle is improving and won't force him to miss any games.
 
5DeJuan Blair
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DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs
Blair is among the league's top 30 rebounders with a rookie-leading 8.3 per game despite averaging only 20.7 minutes off the bench. He became the first Spur to record a double-double in his debut (14 points, 11 rebounds against New Orleans) since Tim Duncan in 1997. If the No. 37 pick continues to give the already loaded Spurs another weapon to help Gregg Popovich rest his aging stars, there will be more than a few general managers kicking themselves for letting Blair fall through their hands one or more times.
 
6Terrence Williams
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Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets
Williams' production has dropped for the winless Nets since he opened with 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Bucks. But Williams could be asked to take on more responsibility in the absence of Devin Harris, who is out with a groin injury that has left Rafer Alston as the team's only healthy point guard. Williams, who averaged 5.0 assists at Louisville last season while playing a lot of point forward, could become more of a ball-handler to help ease the load on Alston.
 
7Ty Lawson
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Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets love his speed and playmaking off the bench. The point guard from North Carolina showed why in scoring 17 points and handing out six assists in the opener against Utah, the first of four consecutive victories to begin the season (Denver is 4-0 for the first time since 1985-86). Lawson has only four turnovers in 78 minutes.
 
8Omri Casspi
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Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
The first Israeli to play in the NBA already has two 15-point games off the bench. He is shooting 18-of-31 (58.1 percent) from the field, including 4-of-9 from three-point range. Coach Paul Westphal has been raving about the 6-8 forward. "He's hungry," Westphal told the Sacramento Bee. "He brings a fierceness. I wish everybody could look in his eyes when I walk down the bench looking to put somebody in the game. He wants to play so bad."
 
9Chase Budinger
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Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets
Few players embody the team that drafted them as much as Budinger, who was overlooked coming out of Arizona and fell to the 44th pick. Not many are predicting the Rockets to do much of anything this season either. But Houston has won three in a row, and Budinger has been instrumental to the success. He scored 17 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) in a victory at Utah and had 11 points in a win at Golden State.
 
10DeMar DeRozan
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DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeRozan joined Damon Stoudamire (1995) and Joey Graham (2005) as the only Toronto first-round picks to start on opening night. What's most impressive so far is that the shooting guard from USC is hitting 50 percent from the field and has only one turnover in three games. He is averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes.
 
Honorable Mention
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks (6.3 ppg, 2.7 apg in three games); Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls (5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg in four games).
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