According to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose is "very close" to resuming full contact activities. This comes after Dr. Brian Cole prognosticated that Rose would miss eight to 12 months after tearing his ACL in late April of 2012 (via ESPN Chicago).
The question is, where will a healthy D-Rose rank amongst the NBA's elite point guards?
Prior to the Chicago Bulls' January 21 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about Rose's recovery. What Thibs had to say was pure music to the ears of anyone who loves the NBA.
Well, with an exception for opposing point guards.
"Very close," Thibodeau said, when asked if Rose would be cleared for full contact. "Very close. That will be the next step."
"He has to go through that for an extended amount of time," Thibodeau said. "That's not going to be OK, one or two days of contact and he's going to be out there, that's not going to happen. Just be patient, everyone has to be patient."
In the words of Bulls fans everywhere: Praise the basketball Gods.
Although the Bulls are in the midst of a 24-16 season, there is no denying how much D-Rose has been missed. Not only has Chicago's offense suffered, but the league has missed one of its most promising young stars.
So how long will it take Rose to reclaim his spot amongst the elite? Once he does reach full strength, where will he rank at the NBA's fastest rising position?
Let's get to the bottom of it.
Will Derrick Rose ever be the player he once was?
Many remember when Dr. Brian Cole predicted Derrick Rose would miss eight to 12 months after successful surgery on his torn ACL. What most don't remember is that Dr. Cole made another estimation.
A forecast that it would take even longer for Rose to reach his pre-injury level of play (via ESPN Chicago).
While he will be at hopefully a very high level at 12 months, it still may take slightly longer for him to be at his pre-injury level. That's not uncommon for athletes of this caliber.
No matter how outstanding Rose's work ethic may be, Cole has a medical point to be made.
Most athletes that return from injury do not return to their highest point from the opening tip. Instead, it takes time for the individual to re-adjust to the pace of their sport and the capabilities of their injured area during game play.
The latter will be the key for D-Rose, who cuts and explodes off of his knees as suddenly as any player in the NBA.
Facilitating vs. Improving
Derrick Rose is not thought as one of the game's elite facilitators. What we can say about him, however, is that he makes everyone around him better.
In other words, D-Rose serves his purpose as a point guard.
Rose has a career average of 6.8 assists and most recently averaged a career-best 7.9 dimes in 2011-12. During the season prior, D-Rose dished out 7.7 assists per game, and that was during his MVP season.
Fortunately, his impact on the team is much bigger than assist numbers.
During his MVP season in 2010-11, the Bulls averaged 100.5 points scored per 48 minutes that Rose was on the floor. When he was not, however, that number dropped to 89.3 points per 48.
In 2011-12, it was more of the same.
The Bulls averaged 100.4 points scored per 48 minutes that Rose was on the floor. That number took an 8.2-point dip to 92.2 points per 48 when Rose was absent.
When you consider how talented Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are, those numbers are shocking. They're also a symbol of how valuable Rose is.
Perhaps most important of all, they demonstrate how much Rose improves those around him.
Rank Amongst Point Guards
The best point guard in the NBA is Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers. Beyond CP3, however, there is room for debate.
Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder are often named for the second spot.
Each of those players has their own pedigree. Rondo is the league's top facilitator, Parker is a former Finals MVP and Westbrook is a virtual mirror image of Rose in playing style and strengths.
As great as those men may be, Rose is one of the greatest game-changers in the NBA.
In terms of pure point guard skill, the other three players may have Rose beat. In terms of the best all-around player, however, Rose is the cream of the crop.
As long as his knee rehabilitates in the proper way, that won't change.
Rose cuts and crosses as rapidly and unexpectedly as any player in the game. His ball-handling is superb and his ability to create something out of nothing is world-class.
As long as he returns to full health, Rose will continue giving CP3 a run for his money as the best point guard in the NBA.