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Head start

Durant gets the jump on fellow rookies in early action

Posted: Monday November 5, 2007 12:03PM; Updated: Monday November 5, 2007 11:19PM
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Since being handed the reins of the Rookie Rankings this season, I've come to realize that watching the NBA will never be the same.

I no longer find myself glued to the Kobe Bryant-Tracy McGrady duel (OK, maybe a little). Instead, I'm watching for Javaris Crittenton or Luis Scola to rise from the bench and peel off the warmups. Suddenly the words, "Now entering for the [enter team here] is rookie [enter player here]" have a whole new meaning.

As for my new favorite teams? Let's just say I'm counting down the days to Nov. 16 when the Sonics take on the Hawks in Atlanta. With two Sonics and two Hawks on this inaugural top 10 list, the showdown will no doubt be this writer's dream matchup.

And can someone please tell the Nuggets to pick up a rookie? I'd really like to watch them this season.

NBA Rookie Rankings
Rank LW Player
1 --
Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics
In their 41-year history, the Sonics have never had a player win Rookie of the Year. Judging by the season's first week, that streak should end. Durant lived up to the hype his first three games, averaging 23 points in 36 minutes and drawing rave reviews from his three opponents. Of all the rookies, Durant easily got the most playing time and showed off a nice shooting touch and playmaking ability. If the hardware were handed out after the first week, Durant's your runaway ROY.
2 --
Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee Bucks
Yi got off to a slow start, fouling out in the season opener, but came up big in the Bucks' home-opening win over the Bulls. Yi had 16 points and eight rebounds and showed the outside touch that makes him such a dangerous 7-footer.
3 --
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
It looks like Horford is going to play a big role in the Hawks' rejuvenation. The third pick in the 2007 draft had a solid first week starting at center in place of the injured Zaza Pachulia, playing big minutes (29.5 mpg) while getting double-digit boards in both games (10 and 11).
4 --
Luis Scola, Houston Rockets
One word keeps coming up when analysts describe Scola: tough. Gritty. Hard-nosed. OK, that's more than one, but you get the picture. Charles Barkley, for one, was falling over himself praising the Argentine big man. Scola had a decent first week, averaging 5.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 19 minutes.
5 --
Acie Law IV, Atlanta Hawks
The future looks bright in Atlanta. With Horford's contributions down low and Law's ability to get to the rim, it should be an exciting season for the Hawks. Law had nine points in the opener and followed it up with 11 in Sunday's loss to the Pistons, combining to make 8-of-10 shots from the field. On the other hand, he has just three assists to seven turnovers, something he'll have to fix if he hopes to supplant Tyronn Lue as the starting point guard.
6 --
Jeff Green, Seattle SuperSonics
The other rookie in Seattle is holding his own. Green struggled in his first two games, hitting just 4-of-14 shots for 13 points, then calmed down Sunday to score 14 points (4-for-7 from the field) and grab seven rebounds. Green will continue to receive serious minutes, so his numbers should only improve.
7 --
Marco Belinelli, Golden State Warriors
Sure, Belinelli struggled in his first three games, but his potential has him on this list. The Italian shooter opened just 5-for-15 from the field (3-for-8 on threes), but he's still getting 13.7 minutes a game, so the opportunities will come. Besides, he's the Italian Warrior.
8 --
Juan Carlos Navarro, Memphis Grizzlies
Navarro is obviously going to get some playing time (an average of 18 minutes through the first two games), and should benefit from fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol's inside-out passes. Through two games, the combo guard is 4-for-9 on 3-pointers and 0-for-3 inside the arc. If Navarro can contribute in other ways, he could make a move up the Rankings.
9 --
Al Thornton, Los Angeles Clippers
In an NBA.com preseason survey of all rookies, Thornton was chosen most athletic and named second-most overlooked. Thornton has shown glimpses of that athleticism while averaging 4.5 points in 15 minutes in two Clippers victories. Thornton gets the nod here mostly on potential and for the spark he provides the Clippers' lineup.
10 --
Daequan Cook, Miami Heat
Cook's time is now. Literally. With Dwyane Wade returning any day, Cook has made the most of his minutes. After getting a DNP-CD in the Heat's opener, Cook led all Heat scorers with 17 points and was on the floor for the final 10 minutes of Friday's loss to the Pacers. Not bad for a rookie. Of course, he followed that up by going 0-for-4 from the field in Sunday's loss to the Bobcats. Cook could be a one-hit wonder on this list.
Honorable mention: Arron Afflalo, Pistons (got two starts with Rip Hamilton out); Jason Smith, 76ers (3 G, 13.3 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Drew Packham can be reached at drew.packham@turner.com.

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