Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday March 10th, 2009

Everybody knows Derrick Rose can play fast. He spent the first three months of the season atop our Rookie Rankings thanks in large part to his ability to direct the Bulls' offense and change directions at furious speeds.But Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro believes Rose can be even more dangerous after learning how to slow it down. After Rose matched his career high with 27 points Friday against the Bucks, Del Negro praised his point guard's restraint.

"Sometimes we talk about him being in gear 10 already and he's got to pull it back some," Del Negro told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I thought he pulled it back to about gear six, played with it a little bit and attacked the basket when it was open."If Rose can ride this learning curve into the playoffs, Rookie of the Year honors -- and a season-ending place atop the Rankings -- would seem a good bet.

(All stats and records are through Monday.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1Derrick Rose
Last Week: 2
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
With about five weeks left in the regular season, Rose finds himself in the middle of a playoff race. Monday's devastating double-overtime loss to the Heat left the Bulls tied for the eighth seed in the East. Dating to the 1980-81 season, only six No. 1 overall picks helped their team into the postseason as rookies: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Chris Webber, Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut and Andrea Bargnani. Can Rose become the first backcourt player to turn the trick? And if he does, should Rookie of the Year honors go to anybody else?
2Russell Westbrook
Last Week: 1
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook has helped the last-place Thunder win four of five as they inch closer to overtaking the Timberwolves in the Northwest Division. With starting forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green sidelined by injury, Westbrook has shouldered more of the offensive load lately. The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 22.2 points and 6.4 assists, along with 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals, in the last five games.
3O.J. Mayo
Last Week: 3
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Not since LeBron James averaged 39.5 minutes in 2003-04 has a rookie gotten as much burn as Mayo, who is playing a team-high 37.9 minutes, 12th in the league "It's been a grind," Mayo told the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise. The Grizzlies are 1-9 since the All-Star break, a stretch during which Mayo's production has fallen to 16.3 points and 39.3 percent shooting from the field.
4Brook Lopez
Last Week: 4
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
Lopez opened the week with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in New Jersey's 99-95 win over the Bucks, a team with whom the Nets are vying for the final playoff spot in the East. But his season-long troubles with nickel-and-dime fouls -- described by teammates as "rookie calls" from stingy officials -- hampered his production over the next three games. "I feel like I'm doing the right thing most of the time, and I'm still getting tagged," Lopez told the Newark Star-Ledger.
5Marc Gasol
Last Week: 6
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol produced his most explosive week of the season, averaging 21.3 points (on 71.8 percent shooting) 9.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.8 blocks in four games. He started the week with 17 points and 14 rebounds against the Lakers and his older brother, Pau; had 20 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists against the Clippers; and burned the 76ers for a personal-best 30 points (on 11-of-15 shooting) and 13 rebounds.
6Michael Beasley
Last Week: 7
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
Beasley may finally be turning the corner, having fully adjusted to his role as a spark plug off the bench. He averaged 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 27 minutes as Miami won three of four to stay within striking distance of the No. 4 seed in the East. Beasley set a franchise rookie record with 28 points against Phoenix last Wednesday, one more than the previous mark shared by Willie Burton and Harold Miner.
7Kevin Love
Last Week: 5
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Love had three more double-doubles last week to raise his rookie-leading total to 18. He's come a long way in a short period of time. "That first month was tough for me," Love told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I'm just trying to learn. I'm figuring out things on defense. I'm finishing around the rim a lot better on offense. I'm hitting my jump shots a little more. I'm just figuring it out a lot more and I feel better about everything."
8Eric Gordon
Last Week: 10
Eric Gordon, L.A. Clippers
What a comeback for Gordon. In his first action since missing four games with a shoulder injury, the 6-4 guard erupted for 35 points (on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from three-point range) and six assists in 45 minutes Saturday against the Pacers in Los Angeles. But Marquis Daniels blocked the Indianapolis native's game-winning layup attempt at the buzzer, sealing the Clippers' fifth consecutive loss.
9Rudy Fernandez
Last Week: 8
Rudy Fernandez, Portland Trail Blazers
The once-ferocious rivalry between the Blazers and Lakers may have been reignited when Fernandez hit the floor Monday after a hard foul by Trevor Ariza. Fernandez was already working on an impressive night, with 11 points (on 4-of-4 shooting) in just 11 minutes, when Ariza struck him from behind on a breakaway layup. He was taken from the court on a stretcher with his neck in a brace. Fernandez, who sustained a bruised chest and right hip pointer, stayed in the hospital overnight and was scheduled to be released Tuesday.
10Mario Chalmers
Last Week: 9
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
The floor leader has emerged from his foul-induced slump with a string of promising performances. He is averaging 12.4 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 turnovers in the last five games, capped by a 17-point, five-assist, four-steal, no-turnover effort in Monday's victory over the Bulls. He also made three three-pointers against Chicago, increasing his franchise single-season rookie record to 88.
Honorable Mention
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks (12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals in four games); Courtney Lee, Magic (6.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 spg in four games).

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