Jennings, Evans leading the way

Wednesday November 11th, 2009

It's never too early for second-guessing. We're only two weeks into the season and some teams are already being criticized for their draft picks.

That's certainly been the case in New York, where president Donnie Walsh and the point guard-needy Knicks passed on Brandon Jennings to take power forward Jordan Hill. While Jennings is off to a strong start running the show for Milwaukee, Hill has played a total of 19 minutes in eight games for the floundering Knicks. Jennings had 17 points, four rebounds and three assists in a victory at New York last Saturday -- a performance that helped him stay atop the Rookie Power Rankings for the second consecutive week.

(All stats and records are through Nov. 10.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1Brandon Jennings
Last Week: 1
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings may be happy to be in Milwaukee now, but he admits that on draft night he thought he was destined to play for the Knicks in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense. Speaking to reporters before Milwaukee's game in New York, Jennings said: "I saw what [D'Antoni] did for Steve Nash [in Phoenix], and how Steve Nash's game is unbelievable now. I wanted to play for a guy like that." Jennings, who is averaging 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists, also said that he figured the Knicks would draft him at No. 8 because they "needed a point guard. LeBron was coming in '10, so I was thinking, 'Aw man. Here we go. Here it is.' It didn't happen, though."
2Tyreke Evans
Last Week: 4
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
No one ever wants to see a player get hurt, but shooting guard Kevin Martin's wrist injury (which is expected to sideline him for about eight weeks) has seemed to spark Evans and the Kings, at least in the short term. Evans was always thought to be a shooting guard playing point guard for Sacramento, so having him take a more aggressive role has suited him just fine. He has scored 75 points in the past three games, the most by a Kings rookie in a three-game span since Walt Williams in 1993. The one big difference is that while Williams was racking up points during a losing streak, Evans has led the Kings to three consecutive victories and their first .500 record in three years.
3Jonny Flynn
Last Week: 3
Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
It seems Kurt Rambis' triangle offense is continuing to confuse the Wolves, and Flynn has been no exception. He's still trying to break old habits of looking to create all the time while dominating the ball. The good news for Flynn is that he's averaging 15.0 points on 48.9 percent shooting from the field. But he also has as many turnovers (a rookie-high 28) as assists, averaging 3.5 in both categories in 28.4 minutes a game.
4Stephen Curry
Last Week: 2
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry, who has been held to nine points or fewer in four consecutive games, leads all rookies with 5.7 assists as he tries to facilitate an offense filled with players looking to score. But, not surprisingly, he has been a liability defensively against bigger, more physical guards, as demonstrated in a loss to the Clippers last week. Eric Gordon and Baron Davis worked over the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Curry, who fouled out in 22 minutes and finished with five points and three assists.
5Ty Lawson
Last Week: 7
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Lawson has impressed coach George Karl with his defense as he continues to earn consistent minutes off the bench. "He can cover," Karl told the Denver Post. "The surprise has been, for a rookie, his defensive instincts, and his ability to make defensive plays is ahead of the curve." Not only has Lawson held his own defensively, but he's also averaging 11.0 points (on 54.8 percent shooting) in 21.9 minutes. Lawson scored 23 points in a victory at New Jersey last week, becoming the first Nuggets rookie to lead the team in scoring since Carmelo Anthony in 2004.
6Terrence Williams
Last Week: 6
Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets
Williams has played every position except center for the winless Nets, who are juggling a lineup of about eight healthy players. Williams, who has already lost more games (seven) than he did last year at Louisville (six), ranks fifth among rookies in points (10.0), second in rebounds (5.3) and fifth in minutes (27.4). "We are throwing a lot at this guy," coach Lawrence Frank told The Record. "All these positions are different around the court and there's difference nuances and learning. It's a lot of stuff. I think he's done a very good job."
7DeJuan Blair
Last Week: 5
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs
Blair is making the most of his 18.7 minutes a game. The second-round pick and the undeniable steal of the draft thus far leads all rookies in rebounding (7.5) and field-goal percentage (61.1), the latter good for seventh in the league. Blair, who joined David Robinson and Tim Duncan as the only San Antonio players to post a double-double in a rookie debut, nearly notched another one in Utah last week when he scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
8Omri Casspi
Last Week: 8
Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Casspi, the 23rd pick last June, has looked like a seasoned veteran in averaging 9.2 points while shooting 54 percent, responding well to a prominent role brought on in part by injuries to Martin and Francisco Garcia. The 21-year-old Casspi surprised coach Paul Westphal when he grabbed 10 rebounds (to go with 12 points and five assists) in a victory against Golden State. Casspi had pulled down 10 boards combined in his previous five games. "He's been hiding that skill from us," Westphal said.
9Chase Budinger
Last Week: 9
Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets
He has given the Rockets some scoring punch they knew they'd need with Yao Ming out for the season and Tracy McGrady still recovering from knee surgery. Budinger's third double-digit performance of the season came last week when he scored 16 points in a win against Oklahoma City. He has made eight three-pointers in six games and is shooting 46.8 percent overall. It will be interesting to see how McGrady's return (he could be back later this month) affects Budinger's playing time and the chemistry that Budinger and his teammates have developed.
10Taj Gibson
Last Week: --
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls reeled off three consecutive victories and nearly a fourth (they lost 90-89 to Denver on Tuesday) after inserting Gibson into the starting lineup for injured power forward Tyrus Thomas, who will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken forearm. Gibson has won over coach Vinny Del Negro by running floor and giving Chicago a strong defensive presence. His energy might make it hard for Del Negro to take him out of the lineup even when Thomas comes back. Gibson is averaging 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in his four starts.
Honorable Mention
Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons (9.0 ppg, 68.8 FG% in last three games); Jodie Meeks, Milwaukee Bucks (19 points in victory vs. Knicks); Toney Douglas, New York Knicks (37 points combined in last two games); Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana Pacers (13 points, five rebounds in debut).
Dropped Out
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors.

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