…Derrick Rose isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is
(massive caveat: this blog has 3 authors, and at times we are going to disagree, giving it a somewhat contradictory look. I happen to know that one of them disagrees with me very strongly on this issue, and so I’m taking this opportunity to strike the first blow in what promises to be a long debate.)
1. Rose and Russell Westbrook are essentially the same player.
Bear in mind that I’m not trying to denigrate Rose. I think he’s a very good basketball player. I’m just arguing that someone like Westbrook brings a very similar skill set to the table, with far less recognition: incredible athleticism, a streaky jump-shot, good playmaking abilities, and an uncanny knack of getting into the paint and drawing the foul. There’s not much difference in their statistics. Yet Westbrook is an allstar who gets pilloried regularly for his shot selection, while Rose is the league MVP with the media falling over themselves to praise him.
2. This was a weak year for MVP candidates.
If LeBron hadn’t left Cleveland, he would have been a lock for his 3rd straight MVP. Dwayne Wade would’ve won it without LeBron as his team-mate. Nowitzki would’ve won if he hadn’t missed some games through injury. Any of Kobe’s last 3 seasons would’ve been sufficient. Dwight Howard arguably should’ve won it this season. pre-injury Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul or Brandon Roy. The point is, Rose got lucky. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve MVP, it’s just that he was the Steven Bradbury of the 2010-11 MVP race.
3. Rose is a poor defender.
This may come as a surprise to some, and it’s not immediately obvious from watching him, nor does it show up on traditional box score statistics. But if you visit any good basketball statistics website, it will show that Chicago performed significantly better on the defensive end without Rose on the court. His backup? CJ Watson, recruited from the defensively anaemic Golden State Warriors. Coach of the Year Thibodeau and the Bulls did a brilliant job of covering for Rose’s mistakes, such that they ended up the best performed team defensively, but this was in spite of Rose, not because of him. Want more proof? I’m sure you’ve seen the highlight reel plays where Rose rotates to the perimeter and uses his amazing vertical leap to block jumpshooters, but what you don’t realise is that for every one of these that makes it to ESPN, there are many more occasions where he commits the foul, or lets his defender blow by him.
4. Rose is a below average shooter.
He has made great strides in this area, but he’s still got a long way to go. Sure, he’s not in the same class as the notorious Rondo, but Rondo is very restrained in his shot-selection, such that he shoots a higher percentage than Rose despite his deficiencies. The problem is not that Rose is a bad shot, rather that he relies on his shot too much. This was demonstrated in the playoffs, when teams closed off Rose’s access to the paint, and he resorted to taking too many three-pointers, at a very low percentage. I don’t buy the argument that he needed to bail Chicago out. LeBron made some very average teammates look like gods for years in Cleveland.
5. He’s not a natural point guard.
The number one role of a point guard is to facilitate the offence. To keep his teammates happy. To look for his own shot last. Rose’s 8 assists per game are misleading. Many of these are created as a result of his scoring ability: teams have to double him, or pack the paint, and to his credit, Rose does a good job of finding the open man. But he doesn’t change the game with his passing, or facilitate good ball movement. Many of Chicago’s possessions were simply Rose trying to create off the dribble for 20 seconds before passing to a teammate or putting up the shot himself. I’m sick of people saying that Rose is the best point guard in the league. He’s the best player at the point guard position, and that’s a very important distinction. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, and Rajon Rondo are all better point guards.