Swedish sensation comes to Detroit
The e-mails came flooding in to my mailbox as soon as last week's Rookie Power Rankings were posted. Everyone wanted to know if I had seen Jonas Jerebko. The answer: Yes, I have seen the Detroit Pistons' forward, and there is no question that he deserves to be on this list given the way he's played since Thanksgiving.
The Pistons have won six of their last eight games and Jerebko is averaging 12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds, becoming a fan favorite on a team in desperate need of attracting fans to The Palace. The Pistons' promotional department has even passed out Viking helmets to fans in "Jerebko Row," as well as Swedish-themed yellow and blue T-shirts.
So, no need to send the memo again, Pistons fans. I got it right here, and I've got it taken care of.
(All stats and records are through Dec. 16.)
Last Week: 1
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento KingsEvans is still one of only four players in the league (along with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and and Joe Johnson) to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, and if he finishes with that total he'll join James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only first-year players to reach that stat line. Evans has scored 20 or more points in 13 games. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he's a mismatch for most guards, as many opponents resort to fouling him. Evans leads all rookies in free throws made and attempted, averaging about five points a game from the charity stripe. He has been a game-changer on both ends of the court for the Kings, who have already won 10 games this season after winning just 17 last season, and is beginning to establish himself as the most complete rookie to enter the league since King James.
Last Week: 2
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee BucksJennings leads all rookies in points (21.1) and assists (6.0), putting him among the top 13 in the league in both categories. Jennings has also been a consistent scorer, recording at least 12 points and three assists in all but one game this season. Against the Blazers last week, Jennings scored 18 points and dished out a career-high 11 assists. Add to that his 44.6 three-point field goal percentage (second among rookies), and it's clear the Bucks' revived playoff hopes are due to Jennings. The only thing more amazing than the Bucks' returning to playoff contention: Jennings still drives his Ford Edge, his first car.
Last Week: 3
Jonny Flynn, Minnesota TimberwolvesFlynn is beginning to display the playmaking ability he routinely showed off at Syracuse. Against the Jazz last week, Flynn drove to the basket and scored the game-winning layup with only three seconds left. Flynn finished with a career-high 28 points, five assists and four three-pointers. It marked the highest point total by a Timberwolves rookie since Stephon Marbury dropped 29 against the Clippers in 1997. While Flynn still has a problem with turnovers, averaging a rookie-high 3.2 (ninth in the NBA), he's becoming a better facilitator, averaging 6.0 assists in his last nine starts. Flynn has also improved his three-point shooting, hitting 42.5 percent in his past 12 games.
Last Week: 4
Stephen Curry, Golden State WarriorsCurry is averaging 16.5 points, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals in his past two games and has scored in double figures in 14 of his past 16 games. While Curry ranks ninth in the NBA in steals and 27th in assists, he would like to get to the free-throw line more. Curry showed that he could be aggressive in the Summer League, going to the foul line 30 times in five games. Through the first 22 games of the regular season, however, Curry has attempted only 35 free throws. "Part of that is attacking the basket off pick-and-rolls or in transition," general manager Larry Riley told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think as he gets more comfortable about the NBA game, he's going to be able to do that."
Last Week: 8
Omri Casspi, Sacramento KingsCasspi is second in the NBA in three-point field goal shooting (.491) and is first among rookies. He has scored in double figures in nine of his last 12 games and is shooting 59 percent from the field in the last four games. In San Antonio last week, Casspi scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but continued to struggle from the foul line. He's shooting a paltry 50 percent from the line and failed to make a free throw during a stretch of four games last week. If he manages to fix his foul-shot woes, Casspi will see a major boost in his numbers.
Last Week: --
Jonas Jerebko, Detroit PistonsThe Pistons' second-round pick has started the last 21 games in place of Tayshaun Prince (back) and has been one of the most underrated rookies this season (as my rankings last week clearly displayed). Since entering the starting lineup after Thanksgiving, he's scored a personal-best 22 points against the Clippers and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds against the Hawks. Jerebko is second among rookies in rebounding (5.5) and fifth in minutes (27.8).
Last Week: --
Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana PacersHansbrough has averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds over the last four games, including a career-high 21 points in a win over the Nets. Two days earlier, he had a season-high 11 rebounds against the Trail Blazers. Despite missing the first four games and averaging about 17 minutes a game, Hansbrough is second on the team in offensive boards (36), with more than a third of those coming in the last four games.
Last Week: --
Wesley Matthews, Utah JazzWith Matthews starting in the backcourt, the Jazz are 11-5 this season (3-5 when he's not). Matthews is averaging 12.4 points and 2.4 assists in his last eight games, including scoring a career-high 19 points with six assists in a win over the Lakers. The undrafted Matthews, who is Marquette's all-time free-throw leader, is now sixth among rookies in minutes (26.2). Jerry Sloan loves the toughness he brings on defense. "He's not afraid to get up and play guys," said Sloan. "He'll stick his nose in, stick his chest in and try to guard guys."
Last Week: --
Taj Gibson, Chicago BullsGibson, who posted a career-high 20 points against New Jersey last week, leads rookies in rebounding (6.1) and is second in blocks (1.09). Gibson has averaged 10.7 points and 7.9 rebounds in his last seven games, beginning with a 14-point, 13-rebound performance in Cleveland. Despite coming off the bench the past five games to make room for Brad Miller, Gibson hasn't seen a dip in his numbers. In fact, they've improved as he's made the most of his minutes. "[Coach Vinny Del Negro] just wanted to shake things up," Gibson told the Chicago Daily Herald. "It's still early, I'm still learning, so I'm not really worried about it."
Last Week: 9
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio SpursBlair has scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his past two games, despite playing fewer than 30 combined minutes. Blair continues to make the most of his minutes in the Spurs' rotation, shooting 61.1 percent and grabbing 5.4 boards a game (third among rookies) in only 14.4 minutes. A quarter into the season, coach Gregg Popovich admitted he is still trying to figure out how to best use Blair, who scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 22 minutes against the Celtics. "He's a strange dude," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. "Those things he does out there, I don't know how he gets them done. I don't know what his game is. I don't know what to do with him."
Honorable MentionJames Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder (averaging 9.2 ppg and 2.7 apg); Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets (16 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists in a win over the Pistons last week); Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets (20 points in a win over the Timberwolves); Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets (18 points and 7 rebounds against the Hawks).
Dropped OutDarren Collison, New Orleans Hornets; Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets.