Through Monday, the Bulls had won eight of 11 games to climb into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. And it's been Derrick Rose -- once again the chart-topper in SI.com's Rookie Rankings -- sparking Chicago's surge.
As Rose's prolific Rookie of the Year campaign roars down the home stretch, the point guard picked up a ringing endorsement from an unlikely source: New Jersey's Brook Lopez, himself a prime contender for the award. Lopez didn't mince words when asked which first-year player would get his vote.
"Derrick," the Nets' center conceded to the Newark Star-Ledger. "Derrick's changed his team so much, obviously. They're definitely a [contender] for the playoffs. ... I think he's done more for his team. He's shouldered more of the load."
Dating to the 1980-81 season, only six No. 1 overall picks helped their team into the postseason as rookies: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Chris Webber, Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut and Andrea Bargnani. It could be a matter of days before Rose becomes the first backcourt player to turn the trick during that span.
(All stats and records are through Monday.)
NBA Rookie Rankings