NBA 2010 Rookie Awards & Rankings

April 18, 2010

Now that the playoffs are upon us, it is time review the performances of this year's surprisingly strong rookie class. This group of rooks not only showed enough promise to take minutes away from several veterans, but also featured a collection of second round steals who made an impact.

Keep in mind that our final rankings and awards do not necessarily reflect our views on which players will have the best career. In other words, while upside is one factor taken into account, performance and playing time during this season is weighted heavily. Hence, there will be many late-blooming rooks who years from now, will have surpassed those players currently ranked ahead of them.

Here are our 2010 Rookie Awards and Final Rankings:


1. DeJuan Blair, San Antonio
2. Taj Gibson, Chicago
3. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
4. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit

Winner? DeJuan Blair. In limited minutes, the rough-and-tumble Blair showed a tremendous will to compete on glass, as seen by his impressive 21-board midseason effort. With increased playing time, Blair projects as a double-digit rebounder at the 4 in the throwback mold of a "Mr. Mean" Larry Smith.

Evans averaged 5.3 boards a game, outstanding for a guard. His size, athleticism, and rebounding ability make him a triple-double threat on any given night. The athletic Gibson showed enough production on the glass to get former lottery pick Tyrus Thomas shipped out of town.


1. Wesley Matthews, Utah
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State
3. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis
4. Taj Gibson, Chicago

Winner? Wesley Matthews. When you crack the starting lineup as an undrafted rookie for Coach Jerry Sloan, then you must be doing something right on the defensive end. Matthews is a strong, physical wing who competes well on D. His on-ball D and solid outside stroke made veteran Ronnie Brewer expendable.

Although Thabeet was struggling enough to get sent down to the D-League, he nevertheless put up quality shotblocking numbers when given the chance to play. Curry finished among the league's Top 5 leaders in steals (1.9 SPG). Gibson has been a solid rebounder and weakside shotblocker (1.3 BPG) all year for Chicago.


1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State
3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
4. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans

Winner? Tyreke Evans. Evans averaged 20.1 PPG this year thanks to his ability to get to the rim both in transition and half court sets. Evans' excellent size, strength, and quickness, allow him to either overpower or blow-by other guards, usually resulting in a quality look or a trip to the line. When his J becomes more reliable, Evans will become a regular on the All Star team.

Jennings' 55-point explosion early in the season demonstrated his ability to fill it up (15.5 PPG). Curry was the second-leading scorer among rookies this year at 17.5 PPG due to his picture-perfect stroke from deep. Thornton is another long-range gunner who put up excellent numbers (14.5 PPG) when given the opportunity.


1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
2. Darren Collison, New Orleans
3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
4. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota
5. Ty Lawson, Denver

Winner? Darren Collison. When Chris Paul injured his knee, Collison stepped in immediately and ran the show flawlessly (5.7 APG). This pass-first, pure point guard proved adept at executing the pick and roll, and was able to consistently create for others off the dribble with his quickness. Collison's unexpectedly advanced midrange game and outside shot kept defenses off-balance, while his sound decision-making allowed him to avoid the turnover-prone stretches that typically come with learning on the job.

Evans is a combo guard who can create for others, but ultimately may end up at the 2 for most of his career. Jennings (5.7 APG) and Flynn (4.4 APG) were starters throughout the year, although each had their share of highs and lows. Lawson (3.1 APG) was very effective in his role as a push-the-pace, change-of-tempo energy guy for the Nuggets' second unit.


1. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State
3. Chase Budinger, Houston
4. Jodie Meeks, Philadelphia
5. Omri Casspi, Sacramento

Winner? Stephen Curry. All of the nominees are shooters who can stroke it from deep, but Curry's DNA is seemingly hardwired to drain shots. Not merely a pure spot-up guy from three point land, Curry has a bagful of shots, including a mid-range J and a nice teardrop in the lane. He also finished among the league's Top 10 leaders in both three-point field goal percentage (.437) and free-throw percentage (.885).

Thornton was an effective starter for much of the year because of his ability to nail shots off kick-out passes from Chris Paul, Darren Collison, and David West. Casspi and Budinger were reliable three-point shooters throughout the season.


1. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis
3. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
4. Jordan Hill, Houston

Winner? Blake Griffin. To be fair, Griffin is a good-guy and a workaholic who cannot be faulted for his unfortunate injuries. Nevertheless, Griffin was a potential franchise player at the 4 who could have resurrected the cursed Clippers back into the playoffs. Instead, he got cursed. Expect Griffin to return with a vengeance.

Thabeet made history by becoming the first #2 overall selection to be sent to the D-League in his rookie year. Still, Thabeet was regarded as a long-term project when he was drafted, so his slow start was not a complete surprise.

Although Minnesota prepared for Ricky Rubio's absence by drafting point guard Jonny Flynn, the 'Wolves inability to bring in the flashy Rubio was a disappointment for both management and their fans. Hill, whom the Knicks selected over Brandon Jennings, failed to make much of an impact and was sent packing to Houston before his first season concluded.


1. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
2. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit
3. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans
4. Chase Budinger, Houston
5. Darren Collison, New Orleans

Winner? Marcus Thornton. When a mid-second round pick makes the starting lineup and begins racking up 20-point scoring nights, that equates to a draft-day steal. Thornton is a knockdown shooter from deep, who could make a career simply playing off the ball with Chris Paul. Fortunately for the Hornets, Thornton appears to have the swag and game for much more.

Jennings was passed over by 9 other teams before the Bucks nabbed him in the lottery. Because he had sat on the bench for much of his one-year stint in Europe, a slow learning curve was expected for the young Jennings. Jennings' surprised everyone however, not with his talent, but with his ability to take charge and run the show from Day One.

Second-rounders Jerebko and Budinger saw consistent rotation minutes all season and produced. If teams were given a "redo," rest assured both of them, along with late first-rounder Collison, would have been picked much higher.


1. Rodrique Beaubois, Dallas
2. Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia
3. Toney Douglas, New York
4. Terrence Williams, New Jersey

Winner? Rodrique Beaubois. The quick, high-flying Beaubois rode the pine much of the year until Jason Terry was injured. However, upon getting some of Terry's minutes, Beaubois exploded with several impressive scoring efforts, including a 40-point outburst in which he hit 9 of 11 treys.

When the Sixers postseason hopes faded, young Holiday received some playing time and displayed steady growth at the point. Similarly, Douglas saw increased minutes late in the year, producing some double-digits scoring efforts for Knicks' coach Mike D'Antoni.

During the last 3 weeks of the season, the light bulb went on for Williams, as he displayed his impressive overall floor game by racking up points, assists, and rebounds. Look for him to be a triple-double threat in the future as his development continues.


1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State
3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
4. Darren Collison, New Orleans

Winner? Tyreke Evans. In a few short months, Evans became the franchise in Sacramento, prompting the team to get rid of star guard Kevin Martin so that they could build around Evans. Strong, athletic, and versatile, Evans can play either guard position and is a matchup nightmare. When his J gets better, lookout.

Curry deserves some kind of medal for the professionalism and consistency he demonstrated in Golden State's dysfunctional environment. He improved throughout the year, and more importantly, continued to play the right way, rather than simply looking to get his.

The lightning-quick Jennings started off with a bang, but saw his numbers and shooting percentage decline the last half of the year. Part of that was due to his unselfishness, part of it was due to his legitimate struggles. Still, he is the only ROY candidate who led his team into the playoffs - without the help of star Michael Redd. Such an accomplishment cannot be overstated.

Final Rankings

1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State
3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
4. Darren Collison, New Orleans
5. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans
6. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota
7. Wesley Matthews, Utah
8. DeJuan Blair, San Antonio
9. Rodrique Beaubois, Dallas
10. Ty Lawson, Denver
11. Chase Budinger, Houston
12. Taj Gibson, Chicago
13. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit
14. Omri Casspi, Sacramento
15. Terrence Williams, New Jersey

Honorable Mentions:
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Austin Daye, Detroit
Sam Young, Memphis
DeMarre Carroll, Memphis
Toney Douglas, New York
James Harden, Oklahoma City (Seattle)
Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City (Seattle)

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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