Sophomore slump? Not for these second-year studs
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

Last season's Rookie of the Year chase was pretty much over after the first week of play. That's how far Chris Paul was ahead of the pack.

But this season, the top sophomores have pulled into a much tighter bunch. Surprisingly, not one of them made the All-Star team, but several have had breakout sophomore campaigns to establish themselves among the game's rising stars.

As I've done with the rookies, I'm going to rate the top 10 members of the sophomore class on this season's play. The same rules apply as with the rookies -- recent play counts more, and we're not worrying about long-term potential.

So let's see if anyone's caught Paul:

10. (tie) Ike Diogu, Indiana; Hakim Warrick, Memphis; Jason Maxiell, Detroit; Ronny Turiaf, Lakers; and Sean May, Charlotte
Call it the "I'm a talented young power forward but I can't get on the court" club.

Each of these five has shown tremendous promise, but is boxed in by equally talented frontcourt players on his team. Thus, despite the eye-popping numbers they've all put up in limited minutes they've had trouble earning more playing time.

Each also has side issues as well that have kept him off the floor: May can't stay healthy, Diogu struggles on defense, Warrick lacks muscle, and Turiaf and Maxiell are slightly undersized and have too much competition for playing time.

But all five of these guys are going to be quality players, and it's just a question of when and where they get an opportunity to get some more minutes.

7. Danny Granger, Indiana
Granger is one of those guys I subjectively like more than his stats show (yes, this happens to me, too), because he can do a little bit of everything.

He's developed a reliable 3-point shot (40.0 percent), he can defend both forward positions and he's picked up his scoring to a healthy 16.4 points per 40 minutes.

Best of the rest
By now some of you have probably noted that the name Raymond Felton didn't appear anywhere on the above list. There's a reason for that -- he hasn't improved. Folks could forgive his shooting 39.0 percent as a rookie because they saw the talented package that came with, but now that he's shooting 38.9 percent as a soph, we have to consider the horrifying possibility that he's just a mason.

It's not like his scoring numbers are that great either -- just 15.1 points per 40 minutes -- and he still makes too many turnovers, so players like Jack and Ellis have surpassed him.

And let's throw a nod toward Milwaukee's Charlie Villanueva, who would almost certainly have made the list if he hadn't been hurt nearly the entire season.