By Arash Markazi
November 25, 2009

Tyreke Evans didn't fall as far as Brandon Jennings in the NBA draft, going fourth instead of ninth, but the teams that passed on Evans, the fourth overall choice in June, are beginning to hear the same questions the teams who passed on Jennings have been getting for weeks.

Kevin Martin

(All stats and records are through Nov. 25.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1 Tyreke Evans
Last Week: 2
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
The most impressive part about Evans' play recently has been his efficiency. In his last two games, he's scored 57 points, hitting 23 of his 39 attempts (58.9 percent) while dishing out 14 assists. Evans has benefited from the constant coaching of Pete Carril, the 79-year-old architect of the Princeton offense and Kings assistant, who has been Evans' shadow since entering the NBA. Kings coach Paul Westphal asked Carril to work with Evans on improving his shooting technique and eliminating any wasted movement. Now Evans is releasing the ball from the top of his forehead instead of behind his right ear as he did in Memphis. "The potential is enormous," Carril told the Commercial Appeal. "When you look at him, you say: 'Holy God.'"
2 Brandon Jennings
Last Week: 1
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
This should have been one of those weeks in which we had co-leaders in the rankings. Jennings certainly did nothing to lose his top spot as he leads all rookies in scoring with 24.2 points-per-game and in assists at 5.7 per game. The problem for Jennings is he's become a victim of his own success. After his 55-point scoring bonanza against the Warriors, every team he plays has focused their defense on shutting him down. Against the Spurs Gregg Popovich tried to wear down Jennings by sending Tony Parker and George Hill at him, a tactic that saw Jennings limited to 12 points on 6-for-21 shooting and commit 5 turnovers. "A lot of teams are starting to trap a lot, and teams are starting to be more physical," Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They're not leaving me on pick-and-roll situations; a lot of the big guys are staying with me."
3 Jonny Flynn
Last Week: 3
Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
In his perfect world Flynn would be doing what Jennings is doing in Milwaukee: running up and down the court, scoring off pick-and-rolls and being the playmaker he was at Syracuse. On draft night, that was Milwaukee's dream, too, as the Bucks were set on drafting Flynn before Minnesota surprised everyone and took the former Orangemen after drafting Ricky Rubio. And while that has been good news for the Bucks and Jennings, who has thrived in Scott Skiles' offense, Flynn has found himself handcuffed by his system. He still doesn't fully understand Kurt Rambis' Triangle offense, and the parts he does understand frustrates him because it won't allow him to do what he does best. Yet, despite being in an offense not designed for a scoring point guard (ask Gary Payton how he liked playing in the Triangle), Flynn continues to be the third-leading rookie scorer with 13.6 points, even though he continues to average more turnovers (3.4) than assists (3.3).
4 Terrence Williams
Last Week: 5
Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets
Williams continues to play four positions for the winless, injury-riddled Nets. He recorded his fourth double-double with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Bucks recently; no other rookie has more than one double-double this season. Williams is also leading all rookies in total rebounds with (81) and rebounds per game (5.8). While Williams' versatility has been a necessity early on, it's clear that he's flourished when he's been put in the backcourt and matched up against undersized guards he can attack. Against Milwaukee it appeared he might single-handedly lead the Nets to their first win from the point guard position. He scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds and led the Nets on a 21-7 run in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Williams can't play all five positions. If he could, the Nets might have won a couple games already.
5 Stephen Curry
Last Week: 6
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
After struggling to find his shot and being benched by Warriors coach Don Nelson in New York, Curry has finally found his touch. Some of that has to do with the Warriors finally trading Stephen Jackson, whose departure to Charlotte last week has sparked Curry. After averaging 7.6 points, 4.75 assists and 2.1 rebounds through his first eight games, Curry has averaged 13.2 points, 6.0 assists and 3.75 rebounds in his last four games. "Early on, I was out there being kind of tentative, picking and choosing my spots to attack," Curry told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We had Jack and Monta [Ellis] and sometimes Corey [Maggette] out there, and those guys need the ball a lot to be efficient offensively. It was a tough line to walk. But it's a beneficial thing for me to put up shots and keep attacking, and I've got to be willing to do that."
6 Marcus Thornton
Last Week: 9
Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
No player has benefited more from the coaching change in New Orleans than Thornton, who went from averaging 5.5 points through the first nine games of the season (he didn't play in the first five) to averaging a team-high 18 points over the past six games despite coming off the bench. Thornton scored a career-high 24 points and hit 5-of-7 three-pointers in his last game against Miami and has only committed three turnovers in his past seven games (only 6 for the season). With Thornton's role on the team continuing to increase, consider this stat: his scoring average per 48 minutes is 33.4, which ranks 10th in the league (for players with at least 8 games).
7 Darren Collison
Last Week: --
Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
Collison was already poised to benefit from Byron Scott's firing after Scott essentially refused to play the rookie point guard, but he's basically been handed the keys to the team after Chris Paul sprained his right ankle and was sidelined for what may be a month. After averaging 1.2 points and 1.0 assist through his first eight games (he didn't play in four games), Collison has averaged 14.0 points and 5.1 assists in the past seven games. The former UCLA Bruin has scored 10 or more points in his past seven games and has led the Hornets to three straight wins as the starting point guard, including wins over the Hawks and Suns.
8 Ty Lawson
Last Week: 4
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Nuggets coach George Karl smiled when asked about Lawson this week. "I've already said enough good things about him," Karl said. While it's true Lawson has broken through Karl's reluctance to play rookies, his performance as of late has dipped some, causing Karl to reel back his high praise. After averaging 11.4 points through the first seven games of the season, Lawson has averaged 7.4 points in the last seven. Despite seeing his scoring dip, Lawson is still providing a huge boost off the bench for the Nuggets. In Denver's loss to the Clippers last week, Lawson actually helped chip the Clippers' 19-point lead down to 2 before he was taken out. "I would have kept him in if I was the coach," said Chauncey Billups. "He's been playing great."
9 Omri Casspi
Last Week: --
Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
After a one-week break from the rankings, Casspi is back after scoring a career-high 17 points at Houston and 15 at Memphis. Casspi also has improved on his free-throw shooting after hitting only 3-of-15 from the charity stripe through his first 10 games; in his last three, Casspi has hit 8-of-9 from the stripe. But perhaps the coolest thing that Casspi, the first Israeli player in the NBA, did this week was pose for a picture with Memphis' Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian player in the NBA, before their game. Everyone already knows the NBA is a global game now but nothing drove that point home more than that historic picture.
10 James Harden
Last Week: --
James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
After an uninspiring start to his rookie season in which he averaged 5.8 points through his first 11 games, Harden has averaged 17.25 in his last four. Harden hadn't scored more than nine points in a game before he exploded for 24 against Orlando and 25 against Washington in the next game, outscoring the Wizards reserves single-handedly. Harden also connected on 10-of-13 three-pointers in those two games, including seven consecutive at one point, which tied a rookie record for the most consecutive three-pointers converted by a rookie since Michael Dickerson made eight straight for the Rockets in 1999.
Honorable Mention
Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana Pacers (8.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg, fifth among rookies), Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets (8.7 ppg and 12 points against the Kings), Toney Douglas, New York Knicks (8.0 ppg and 12 points against the Lakers), DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs, (5.5 ppg and 5.4 rpg, third among rookies)
Dropped Out
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs, Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets, Toney Douglas, New York Knicks

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