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Bucks strike it rich with Jennings

Sometimes you just get lucky. Sometimes when you least expect it you get a few (or in the Bucks' case, several) things to go your way and you end up with a superstar in the making with the 10th pick in a draft that was supposed to be devoid of superstars.

Brandon Jennings hasn't just been the best rookie this season; he's been one of the best players in the league and has revitalized basketball in Milwaukee. The Bucks haven't been this lucky since 1969, when they won a coin flip with the Phoenix Suns to draft a center named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Forty years later, Jennings shattered Abdul-Jabbar's team rookie record for points in a game by dropping 55 on the Warriors last Saturday, the most by a first-year player since Earl Monroe scored 56 in 1968 and just three points shy of the NBA mark set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1960. Warriors coach Don Nelson called it "probably the best rookie performance I've ever witnessed in 30-some years coaching."

That's good enough for us to keep Jennings in the top spot this week.

(All stats and records are through Nov. 17.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
 
 
1Brandon Jennings
Last Week: 1
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
The most amazing part of Jennings' 55-point performance was that he went scoreless in the first quarter and scored only 10 points in the first half. Jennings poured in 29 points in the third quarter and 16 in the fourth to become only the third Bucks player to score more than 50. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a few days earlier Jennings had asked injured teammate Michael Redd about his single-game high for scoring. When Redd said he scored 57 for the Bucks in 2006, Jennings responded, "Dang, how did you do that?" Redd simply told the rookie that you've got to be on. "It's funny," Redd told the newspaper. "The next couple days he's on. At least we won when he scored 50 points. I didn't win."
 
2Tyreke Evans
Last Week: 2
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
With 20 points in Monday's loss to Chicago (Sacramento's first defeat in five games without Kevin Martin), Evans became the first Kings rookie with five consecutive 20-point performances since Lionel Simmons in 1991. Not only does Evans look more at ease with his role, but he also doesn't seem as burdened by the pressure of having to lead the team, as he did the first week or so of the season. "I'm just playing; in the first couple of games I was thinking too much," Evans told the Sacramento Bee. "Since I was the No. 4 pick, I was under a lot of pressure, and I was not getting out there and playing. Now I feel comfortable."
 
3Jonny Flynn
Last Week: 3
Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
It's a testament to Flynn's talents that he still ranks this high despite an inability to grasp Kurt Rambis' triangle offense yet. Far too often Flynn will look to create for himself rather than make good on Rambis' emphasis of setting up a teammate. As much as he wants to listen, the old habits of racing toward the basket or trying to score off pick-and-rolls, as he did at Syracuse, creep back during games. While Flynn, who tied a club record by scoring in double figures in his first 11 games, ranks third among rookies with 14.2 points, he also continues to average more turnovers (3.6) than assists (3.3).
 
4Ty Lawson
Last Week: 5
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
There have been some incredible rookie highlights so far, but perhaps none was better than the 5-foot-11 Lawson's posterizing Lakers 7-footer DJ Mbenga during Denver's 105-79 rout of Los Angeles last Friday. His play in that game, in which he scored 13 points and added six assists, epitomizes the energy that Lawson has provided off the bench. The addition of Lawson has coach George Karl believing that the Nuggets might be even better than the team that was two victories from the NBA Finals last season. "Ty gives us a guy that we've never had before," Karl told The Associated Press. "We have a guy that can go."
 
5Terrence Williams
Last Week: 6
Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets
The multitalented Williams is probably best suited to play small forward, and he figures to get extended minutes there once the winless Nets are healthier, but for now he's all over the floor covering multiple positions for a team that literally had to use a chair in place of a player in practice recently. Williams had back-to-back double-doubles last week, including 10 points and a personal-best 12 rebounds against Philadelphia in his starting debut. That made him the first Nets rookie to record a double-double in his first career start since Nenad Krstic in 2004.
 
6Stephen Curry
Last Week: 4
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry isn't immune to Don Nelson's mind games. He was yanked from the starting lineup six games into the season and played only three minutes against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last Friday. When Nelson was asked why he used Curry so sparingly, he joked, "How can a guy start in the NBA without tattoos?" Curry, who actually does have a tattoo on his left wrist, responded by scoring 14 points in each of the past two games and reclaiming his starting position. Interestingly, Curry gave more credit to YouTube for his improved play than Nellie's antics. Of looking at his highlights online, Curry told the Contra Costa Times that he wanted to "remind myself that I can shoot the ball and just be on the attack. In my locker, I'm going to put up the word aggressive. You'll see a lot more of that."
 
7DeJuan Blair
Last Week: 7
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs
The 6-7 Blair may not be putting up the same eye-popping stats as he did at the beginning of the season, but he's been showing versatility in starting at both power forward and center recently. Blair leads all rookies with 6.5 rebounds in only 18.2 minutes and is also shooting 60.5 percent (which would rank fourth in the league if he had enough baskets to qualify). But Blair, who has struggled with foul trouble, hasn't notched double-digit points since Nov. 5 or double-digit rebounds since Halloween.
 
8Chase Budinger
Last Week: 9
Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets
One thing the Rockets love about Budinger is that he tends to be in the right place at the right time and makes a difference whenever he gets in the game. In last Sunday's 101-91 victory against the Lakers in L.A., Budinger played a season-high 26 minutes and had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. He is averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds for the season and is shooting a respectable 36.8 percent from three-point range.
 
9Marcus Thornton
Last Week: --
Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
After firing coach Byron Scott, New Orleans is finally playing its two talented rookies in shooting guard Thornton and point guard Darren Collison. Thornton, a second-round pick from LSU who didn't play in the first five games, has responded by scoring at least 10 points in three consecutive games, including a season-high 20 against Portland. As well as the rookies have been playing, they still can't escape their nicknames of Tinkerbell (Thornton) and Ariel (Collison) -- the Hornets' veterans have insisted that the youngsters carry children's bags of their characters all season.
 
10Toney Douglas
Last Week: --
Toney Douglas, New York Knicks
Perhaps nothing will ease Knicks fans' pain of not drafting Jennings, but Douglas is doing his best. After scoring only nine points in his first six games, Douglas has averaged 18.3 points in his last four. He scored a season-high 23 points in his first start, a loss to Atlanta. Douglas, however, is a long way from mastering the art of being a facilitator. He has eight assists in 145 minutes this season, or one every 18 minutes. "For a point guard, he's going to have to grow a lot," coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "He's playing with a lot of enthusiasm. He does hit baskets. In order to be a point guard, run your team, and control the tempo, and all that, he's got some learning to do."
 
Honorable Mention
Rodrique Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks (35 points total in three straight starts, all road wins); Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets (four double-digit scoring games in a row, including last two as fill-in starter for injured Chris Paul); Wesley Matthews, Utah Jazz (29 points combined in first two starts); Eric Maynor, Utah Jazz (13 points, 11 assists and then 24 points, four assists in back-to-back starts as replacement for absent Deron Williams).
 
Dropped Out
Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings; Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls.
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