Bryan Armen Graham
Wednesday December 24th, 2008

When the NBA schedule was released in early August, one of the most anticipated matchups was the Boxing Day matinee featuring Chicago and Miami -- a showdown between the top two picks in the 2008 draft. Nearly three months into the season, No. 2 pick Michael Beasley's sluggish development has stripped some of the luster from Friday's most obvious subplot. Instead, a post-Christmas clash between standout first-year point guards -- Rookie of the Year favorite and No. 1 pick Derrick Rose and second-round surprise Mario Chalmers -- takes center stage.(All stats and records are through Tuesday.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1Derrick Rose
Last Week: 1
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Rose opened last week on an underwhelming note in Charlotte, failing to score in double figures for just the second time in his career and committing a controversial foul on D.J. Augustin's three-point attempt with 19.2 seconds left in regulation. Augustin sank the freebies to set up overtime, where the Bulls bowed to the short-handed Bobcats. Furious with the call, Rose took out his frustrations on the Clippers (16 points, seven assists), Celtics (14 points, five assists) and Jazz (24 points, three assists and five rebounds). Rose played Deron Williams tough in Chicago's 106-98 victory against Utah. "He's not playing like a rookie," Williams told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I don't think he's a rookie anymore. He's one of the best point guards in this league and he definitely took over."
2O.J. Mayo
Last Week: 2
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Throughout Monday's 105-96 loss to the Lakers, Mayo struggled to stay in front of Kobe Bryant, who finished with a game-high 36 points. But Mayo challenged Kobe on the offensive end, recordng 22 points and six assists while earning lofty praise from the NBA's reigning MVP. "He has a great work ethic and great all-around skill," Bryant told the Orange Country Register. "He can shoot; he can handle. He sees the floor really well. He has the total package. I don't have any doubt that he will be a star in this league." That performance against the Lakers was sandwiched around two seven-point outings, Mayo's lowest-scoring games of the season.
3Brook Lopez
Last Week: 3
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
With 22 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks against the Heat on Saturday, Lopez became the first Nets rookie to produce a 20-10-5 game since Derrick Coleman in 1991. Meanwhile, those around the team are starting to notice his mystifying inability to get to the foul line. In the past 10 games, Lopez has attempted 105 shots from the floor and just six from the charity stripe. The rook has long ceased protesting to the officials, chalking it up to freshman initiation. "I stopped. I gave up," Lopez told the Newark Star-Ledger. "I figure just play my game, try to go up strong, and hopefully get lucky."
4Rudy Fernandez
Last Week: 7
Rudy Fernandez, Portland Trail Blazers
His numbers might not pop off the page, but Fernandez has emerged as the most consistent scorer in this year's freshman crop beyond Rose and Mayo. He's averaging 10.9 points in 25.7 minutes off the bench. He's also made 59 three-pointers and leads the team in free-throw percentage (91.8). His 12-point effort in Tuesday's key divisional victory against the Nuggets helped Portland pull into a tie for first place in the Northwest.
5Mario Chalmers
Last Week: 8
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
The point guard has helped the Heat to a three-game winning streak that has moved them a season-high-tying three games above .500 (15-12). In Miami's signature win of the season, an 89-87 victory against the Lakers last Friday, Chalmers had 10 points and four assists. He is averaging 11.9 points and 4.4 assists in 10 games this month. Chalmers also has made a three-pointer in 12 consecutive games, hitting 23-of-59 (39.0 percent) during that stretch.
6Marc Gasol
Last Week: 4
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
They'd gone against one another in exhibitions and training for the Spanish national team, but Monday marked the first time Gasol faced his older brother, Pau, in a competitive game. Pau got the best of the exchange, finishing with 15 points, seven boards and six assists for the Lakers, while Marc had eight points and seven rebounds. "Somebody had to lose tonight, right?" Pau told reporters. "I'm happy we came out victorious because we needed this win extremely bad to continue to pursue our goals. But I'm sorry that on the losing end were the Grizzlies and my brother."
7Kevin Love
Last Week: NR
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
His on-the-job training at point guard is moving along ahead of schedule. Westbrook's impressive stat line Sunday against the Cavs -- 24 points, season-high-tying 11 assists and six rebounds -- capped the most impressive week of his young career. In four games, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds. That raised his December averages to 15.1 points, 5.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
8D.J. Augustin
Last Week: 9
D.J. Augustin, Charlotte Bobcats
Augustin has struggled to reacclimate himself to a reserve role after excelling in the starting lineup. But last week's victory against the Bulls was a notable exception. Going against Rose, Augustin scored a career-high 29 points while adding seven assists. He finished 13-for-13 from the foul line, extending his streak of made free throws to 42 and eclipsing Matt Carroll's franchise mark (37). The streak ended at 42 when Augustin missed a free throw against the Wizards on Tuesday.
9Greg Oden
Last Week: 6
Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
The tweet of the referee's whistle defined Oden's week, with the frustrated 7-footer committing 20 fouls in 68 minutes over four games. The low point came Tuesday on the back end of a home-and-home against the Nuggets: zero points and five fouls in eight minutes. Oden offers modest and efficient production and an imposing post presence when he's on the court, but he can't make the jump to reliable NBA starter until he gets the foul trouble under control. "I really couldn't get into a groove," Oden told reporters after fouling out Monday in Denver. "It's hard to get into a groove when you get called for fouls and have to be taken out."
10Michael Beasley
Last Week: 10
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
After a bout with the flu, Beasley has averaged 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15.3 minutes in his last three games. Although his production has slipped since moving to the bench late last month, Beasley is still tied with Westbrook for third in rookie scoring at 13.3 points, trailing only Mayo (19.9) and Rose (17.5).
Honorable Mention
Marreese Speights, 76ers (14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in four games); Eric Gordon, Clippers (15.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg in five games); Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks (12.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.5 spg in three games)
Dropped Out
Kevin Love, Timberwolves

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