He came on so strong at the end of last season and looked right at home in the postseason that a natural question in his second year is whether Derrick Rose will be able to move up to the select group of point guards in the NBA.
Actually the question isn’t whether he will, but when will the ascent actually occur?
Whether Rose will make an appreciable leap in his second season running the Chicago Bulls offense remains to be seen, but few doubt that he will eventually be listed among the NBA’s best point guards.
Coming off an outstanding showing in his first postseason, Rose provided enough evidence that he is going to be a serious impact player. This should be no revelation since Rose was the first player taken in the 2008 draft.
First, before glancing into the future, it’s impossible not to look behind. In losing a seven-game opening round series to the Boston Celtics, Rose was truly an impact player. While players don’t always match their regular season statistics in the postseason, Rose exceeded his output.
As a rookie, he averaged 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 turnovers. Against the Celtics in a truly pulsating first-round, Rose averaged 19.7 points, 6.4 assists, 6.3 rebounds. Of course it must be noted that he averaged over seven minutes a game more in the postseason.
Two negatives were that he averaged 5.0 turnovers in that Boston series and he missed all four of his three point attempts.
Both statistics are related because Rose is not yet a threat as a three-point shooter. He shot 22.2 percent in the regular season. Since he derives so much of his offense by driving to the basket, he is more apt to turn the ball over while attempting to create his own scoring opportunities.
The other part of Rose’s game that must improve is his defense. True, when somebody is creating so much on offense, there is a tendency to rest on D. Yet to move up to the elite level, he has to make a better effort when the opponent has the ball.
One other question about Rose will be his health. He just turned 21, played in 81 games during his Rookie of the Year campaign and averaged 44.7 minutes in the playoff series with Boston. However, Rose suffered an ankle injury during this preseason and still hasn’t looked 100 percent, although in an opening 92-85 win over the San Antonio Spurs, Rose had 13 points (5 for 12 shooting), seven rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover in 33 minutes.
While there can always be debate, it says here that Chris Paul of New Orleans and Utah’s Deron Williams are currently the top two point guards in the NBA. (It’s hard to believe that Williams hasn’t earned an All-Star invitation, something that should be remedied this year).
The thing that has to be noticed about both is that they have improved each year in the league. Both are now in their fifth NBA season.
Last year Paul was a first-team All-NBA Defensive Team selection while Williams received three second-team votes.
Like Rose, Paul was a poor three-point shooter as a rookie. He shot .282 from beyond the arc as a rookie and last year was up to .364. Williams on the other hand had his best three-point shooting season as a rookie (.410) and worst last year (.310) and that remains an inconsistent part of his game.
Still, both Williams and Paul are much better shooters and defenders than Rose and each has more savvy as a floor leader. That is to be expected with their experience.
In looking at Paul and Williams, it’s interesting how players develop.
Williams made his great improvement, at least from a statistical standpoint between his first and second year, going from 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game to 16.2 and 9.3 his second season. Of course his minutes increased more than eight per game, but his improved play earned Williams the extra minutes.
Paul made his biggest gain between his second and third season. He went from averaging 17.3 points and 8.9 assists his second year to 21.1 points and 11.6 assists his third season.
What made that leap so impressive is that his playing time went up less than one minute per game.
It goes to show that players develop at different rates. Don’t be surprised if Rose shows his greatest improvement between his second and third seasons.
Before taking aim at Paul or Williams, there are several other point guards that will provide plenty of competition for Rose, including greybeards such as Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd. There are also veterans with All-Star experience (Devin Harris, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson, Baron Davis) and others looking to crack the top group (Rajon Rondo, Jose Calderon, Russell Westbrook).
Rose has the ability to move above all these point guards before taking direct aim at Paul and Williams. Asking for it to happen in his second season may be too much to expect.