Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday December 16th, 2008

We wanted to elevate O.J. Mayo to the Rookie Rankings penthouse this week. We honestly did. The prolific shooting guard made a compelling case for promotion over the past eight days, helping the Grizzlies right their foundering ship with a four-game winning streak. But Derrick Rose just wouldn't comply. He led the Bulls to a 2-1 record while maintaining his reliable form at point guard -- thus ensuring another monotonous week atop our weekly freshman pecking order.(All stats and records are through Monday.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1Derrick Rose
Last Week: 1
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
More and more, opponents are tailoring their game plans around Chicago's nascent star -- the sincerest form of flattery in the NBA. No strategy is out of bounds, whether it's double-teaming Rose at midcourt or denying penetration with lane-clogging junk defenses. "I noticed that," Rose told the Chicago Tribune. "They take off the help-side corner [defender] so they can have a triangle in the middle. You just have to find a way to beat it -- run some offense to stop them from doing it." Rose earns bonus points for his impressive tally in the initial returns for All-Star Game balloting: He's the lone rook to have eclipsed 100,000 votes, ranking eighth among Eastern Conference guards.
2O.J. Mayo
Last Week: 2
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Finally, Mayo's numbers are making a positive impact on his team's bottom line. The 21-year-old scored a game-high 28 points -- including 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc -- as the Grizzlies rolled past the Heat on Sunday for their fourth consecutive victory. It's the franchise's longest winning streak since Mayo's junior season at Cincinnati's North College Hill High School in 2005-06. "We have a lot of winners on this team," Mayo told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "We all want to win and we'll do whatever it takes to win. We're all clicking together."
3Brook Lopez
Last Week: 3
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
The Nets reaped immediate rewards after promoting Lopez to the starting lineup, winning nine of 12 games and ascending to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The team regressed last week, dropping three of four games, but Lopez had some nice moments in the pivot. The 7-footer scored 17 points (on 8-for-14 shooting) in a loss at Chicago, adding seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 33 minutes. He's turned back 15 shots in his last five outings, upping his rookie-best blocks average to 1.91.
4Marc Gasol
Last Week: 6
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
While shuffling in and out of the starting lineup this month, Gasol continues to lead all rookies in shooting (at 54.4 percent). No other rookie who qualifies among the league leaders is above 50 percent. The Spaniard is on pace to break his brother Pau's team record of 53.8 percent set in 2006-07. Pau also holds the club's rookie record of 51.8 percent.
5Kevin Love
Last Week: NR
Kevin Love, Minneosta Timberwolves
After crashing out of the top 10 three weeks ago, Love is back in the Rookie Rankings thanks to his emergence on the glass. Sure, the Timberwolves are winless in December, but the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward has six consecutive double-digit rebounding games. He's averaging a rookie-best 8.2 rebounds. His secret? "Coach [Kevin McHale] said, 'Go where they ain't,'" Love told the Los Angeles Times. "That's his favorite thing to say so I've been trying to do that."
6Greg Oden
Last Week: 4
Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
Three weeks into his role as a full-time starter, inconsistency continues to mark Oden's season: He recently had a 15-point, 15-rebound effort and a two-point, one-rebound outing. Perhaps the biggest news surrounding Oden came from Oregonian beat writer Jason Quick, who made a harsh assessment of the 7-footer on a local sports talk radio station: "I can't really stand to be around him. He's such a downer. He's not a very fun guy to be around and he's not a very fun guy to talk to. ... I think his teammates like him, but that guy is not interacting with very many guys in the locker room right now. He can't let go of being Greg Oden. I think he's obsessing with all [the expectations]." Quick later clarified his remarks.
7Rudy Fernandez
Last Week: 6
Rudy Fernandez, Portland Trail Blazers
Fernandez, the rookie leader in three-pointers (52) and free-throw percentage (92.9), offers important production off the bench for one of the league's deepest rosters. Portland ranks third in the NBA in bench points (36.2), with Fernandez averaging 11.0. "I think it's a very good second unit," Fernandez told the Oregonian. "It starts with Sergio [Rodriguez] controlling the tempo. I think that is important. But I think it is also important in basketball to play together. We are all playing together."
8Mario Chalmers
Last Week: 9
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Eight months after "Mario's Miracle" helped Kansas defeat Memphis for the NCAA title, Chalmers endured an icy reception from the locals Sunday when the Heat visited the Grizzlies. He responded with his worst game of the week (eight points and three assists), but rebounded Monday against Milwaukee with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Chalmers, who has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games, is finding his niche alongside Dwyane Wade in the Miami backcourt. "It's a lot easier, especially with D-Wade," Chalmers told The Associated Press. "He takes a lot of pressure off of me. He's somebody I can go to, talk to, get advice from; he can bring the ball up the court, and a lot of defenses focus on him, so it makes it a lot easier for me to run the offense."
9D.J. Augustin
Last Week: 7
D.J. Augustin, Charlotte Bobcats
Jason Richardson's departure temporarily opened a starting spot for Augustin, who took advantage by scoring a personal-best 28 points -- highlighted by a 4-for-4 performance from three-point range -- to go with seven assists and four steals against Chris Paul and the Hornets. But once shooting guard Raja Bell arrived from Phoenix as part of the Richardson trade, Augustin returned to a reserve role.
10Michael Beasley
Last Week: 10
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
The second pick in the draft missed last Friday's game against the Hawks with the flu. But Beasley bounced back nicely Sunday with his best game of the month, finishing with 20 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes against the Grizzlies. Here's hoping the Kansas State product can shake the bug -- or dial up a veterinarian. "The only thing I can think of was it's from my dogs," Beasley told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I've had them for like seven or eight months, though. But I think it might have come from them. I've been around them a lot."
Honorable Mention
Russell Westbrook, Thunder (12.0 points, 4.7 assists, 3.7 steals in three games); Jason Thompson, Kings (8.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg in four games); Courtney Lee, Magic (9.3 ppg, 59.1 FG% in three games)
Dropped Out

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