2010 NBA Rookie Rankings (Jan. 31st): The Race For Rookie of the Year
Remember last June, when this rookie class was being called one of the weakest in recent memory?
This season, several players have proven that assertion to be quite false.
While this crop of rookies will likely be obliterated by the second-year players at the upcoming Rookie Challenge, they've still been far better than most expected, especially during the first year.
Oh, and remember Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio?
Two of the top-five picks (and perhaps the two most highly-touted prospects) haven't even set foot on an NBA floor in a regular season game yet.
So, here's how the top-10 rookies shake out as of today.
1. Tyreke Evans-G-Sacramento Kings
Evans was neck and neck with Bucks guard Brandon Jennings through much of the season's first half, but he has clearly established himself as the top dog now.
Through 42 games, Evans is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and five assists per game.
He's become the heart of the Kings in just his first season and appears to be well on his way to NBA stardom.
While there are still doubts about his ability to play point guard (he averages just under three turnovers per game), he's answered critics' questions of how his scoring ability will translate to the NBA.
While his jumper could still use some work, Evans has made a living on slashing and getting easy buckets around the rim.
His long arms and quickness also make him a tough matchup on defense for smaller point guards.
As his game continues to develop, Evans could become one of the best all-around players in the league.
2. Brandon Jennings-G-Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings has had a rough January, and his field goal percentage on the season is down to a dreadful 38.2 percent.
Still, Jennings has been a huge steal for the Bucks, who drafted him tenth overall last summer.
Nobody really knew what to expect from him, especially after struggling through his one season overseas playing in Italy.
Despite his poor overall shooting percentage, Jennings is still averaging 17.7 points and 6.2 assists per game.
He's clearly been the best true point guard so far out of this class, which says a lot considering how many of them there are.
He's averaging about 2.5 turnovers per game, which isn't terrible considering how often he has his hands on the ball and his speedy style of play.
He's supremely quick, and if he can get that shooting percentage up, he'll be one of the most dangerous offensive point guards in the game for many years to come.
Jennings could stand to add some bulk to his wiry frame, however, as he weighs in at just 169 pounds and bigger guards are able to take advantage of his lack of strength from time to time.
3. Stephen Curry-G-Golden State Warriors
Curry has had a phenomenal month, which has served to answer some questions about his ability to score at this level.
In January, he scored in double figures in all but two games (in each of those two games, he scored nine), and has shot an incredible 47 percent from three-point range.
Curry's game fits in perfectly with Don Nelson's run-and-gun style, and his numbers have certainly reflected that.
On the year, Curry is averaging 14.2 points per game to go along with five assists and two steals.
He's become a pretty solid point guard as well and has displayed stellar court vision.
His ball-handling skills have also clearly improved since last year, and he's kept his turnovers down as a result.
Curry has gotten much better with each passing month, and it will be interesting to see if he stays at point guard or plays more off-guard.
He should be able to flourish at either position, and is another player that appears to have a very, very bright future in the league.
4. Jonny Flynn-G-Minnesota Timberwolves
Flynn was the second point guard in a row drafted by the Timberwolves, immediately behind the aforementioned Ricky Rubio.
Obviously, with Rubio still playing in Spain, Flynn has assumed the starting point guard duties for Minnesota this season.
The six-footer is averaging about 14 points a game, to go along with four assists.
While his scoring has been decent, Flynn hasn't quite grasped the notion of being a pure, distributing point guard.
Flynn does have a luxury not shared by many other young guards, and that is the assistance of a young, dependable front court.
Being able to dump the ball down into the post to Al Jefferson and Kevin Love should help to take a decent amount of pressure off of Flynn to produce all by himself.
At times this season, Flynn has tried to do too much on his own, and it's hurt his production.
Once he learns how to better distribute the ball, Flynn certainly has the potential to become one of the best point guards in the league.
5. James Harden-G-Oklahoma City Thunder
Those top three rookies are in a league of their own in terms of production, but the rest of the guys on this list shouldn't be underappreciated.
James Harden has been overshadowed by the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but he's been a huge part of the resurgent Thunder's success thus far.
Harden is averaging just under 10 points per game in only 23 minutes of court time.
He's already a prolific wing defender, and he has contributed in a huge way to OKC being near the top of the league in defense.
He's struggled with his shooting in his rookie year (39 percent from the field), but that should come as he matures.
Harden was one of the premier scoring guards in the nation as a college player, so his knack for putting the ball into the basket shouldn't take too much time to arrive as a pro.
For the Thunder, he fits his role perfectly.
He's not expected to score a lot, and they just depend on him to do some of the little things in order to stay on the floor.
As his role is increased in the future, his offensive numbers will surely rise.
6. Omri Casspi-F-Sacramento Kings
Casspi has been a revelation for the Kings, and averages 12 points and five rebounds per game.
The first Israeli player ever to play in the NBA, Casspi has earned his spot in the Kings' rotation based on his ability to run the floor and play extremely pesky defense.
A wiry 6'9", his ball-handling skills are good enough to allow him to slash through the defense and score from the inside.
He also has an above-average shooting touch, and is shooting 39 percent from beyond-the-arc in his rookie season.
Casspi brings great energy to the floor, and it's infectious with his teammates.
While his free-throw shooting could use some work, Casspi certainly has a skill set similar to a more athletic version of Hedo Turkoglu.
He's just 21 years old and is already getting lots of valuable experience in his rookie season.
7. DeJuan Blair-F-San Antonio Spurs
DeJuan Blair, who somehow fell to the second round of the draft, made his presence felt in a game earlier this month against Oklahoma City in which he recorded 28 points and 21 rebounds.
While Blair is not much of a one-on-one scoring threat, he is still able to score efficiently with easy opportunities around the rim.
His rebounding isn't hindered at all by his 6'7" height, and he's proven to be quite the bull in the low post on the defensive end.
He has great quickness for a guy listed around 270 pounds, and it helps him get off the floor quickly to disturb a shot on defense or grab a rebound.
While he's never going to be a franchise-type cornerstone, it's clear that Blair has the potential and talent to be an essential role player for years.
He has a winning-type attitude, and he'll certainly benefit from playing with the Spurs.
8. Ty Lawson-G-Denver Nuggets
Lawson, surprisingly absent from the upcoming Rookie Challenge, has been a steal for the Nuggets this season.
The speedy guard from North Carolina has supplanted Anthony Carter as the backup to Chauncey Billups, and his transition to the NBA has been far smoother than most expected.
Despite his below-average height (5'11"), Lawson is able to use his strength to his advantage and isn't afraid of taking the ball right to the rim.
He's averaging nine points per game, and is shooting 49 percent from the floor.
His supreme quickness and strength make him a very tough check for other guards, and his selfless style of play makes him a great guy to play with.
The NBA is getting smaller, and teams aren't as worried about a player's height as they used to be.
If the draft were done over again, it seems likely that Lawson would be a top-10 pick.
9. Taj Gibson-F-Chicago Bulls
Gibson, selected at the end of the first round, has had far more impact for the Bulls than the 15th overall pick, James Johnson.
Gibson's steady play has allowed him to secure his spot as Chicago's starting power forward.
He averages just 24 minutes per game, but he's been extremely productive with about eight points and seven rebounds in that time.
Gibson has good size at 6'9" and is reliable enough to shoot a mid-range jumper while also being athletic enough to finish with authority around the rim.
After initially being inserted in the starting lineup due to an injury to Tyrus Thomas, Gibson's play has been so consistent that he's been able to keep the spot.
The Bulls have won five in a row, all on the road over teams in the Western Conference playoff race (Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, New Orleans), and Gibson has been a huge part of it.
10. Chase Budinger-F-Houston Rockets/Marcus Thornton-G-New Orleans Hornets
Budinger and Thornton are two more second-round picks that have been far more effective as rookies than most thought.
Thornton is averaging just over 10 points per game in just 20 minutes per coming off the Hornets' bench, and Budinger is going for eight points per game in just 18 minutes per for Houston.
Thornton has been up-and-down so far this season, but that's to be expected from a rookie scorer.
He's been a nice find for New Orleans, especially as a team without a player (other than Chris Paul) known for being able to create his own shot.
He will eventually learn to be more patient and to pick his spots, but so far, so good as a rookie.
Budinger has been able to work his way into the Rockets' rotation after not being guaranteed a spot coming into training camp.
He's been a lightning rod off the bench at times this season, providing a flurry of points for a team that struggles to find scoring from time to time.
His size (6'8") and athleticism make him a tougher matchup than expected, and his quick release allow him to get his shot off against almost anybody.
Each rookie has been a major surprise for his team so far, and they should continue to improve as their roles develop further.
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