Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving, Which Star NBA Point Guard Has Brighter Future?
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Both were selected first overall in their respective drafts, elected to All-Star Games during their sophomore seasons and brought in to heal bleeding franchises.
Each also appears to have a promising future ahead of them.
But whose prospects are greater: that of Irving or Rose?
Upon entering the league, the notion of the rookie Irving surpassing Rose's success would have been scoff-worthy. Rose was fresh off a 2010-11 campaign in which he averaged 25.1 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game en route to an MVP award.
How could a player capable of being deemed more important than LeBron James (at that time) be outdone?
Since then, things have changed drastically.
Presently, Irving is posting a 22.7 PER while averaging 23.3 points, 5.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, numbers that either rival or exceed that of Rose's sophomore campaign in each category.
Less than two years into his NBA tenure, Irving has thrust himself into the company of the league's most prolific talents—just like Rose did.
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Rose has the advantage of a supporting cast Irving can only dream about. There are no Luol Dengs or Joakim Noahs in Cleveland. Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller just don't qualify as teammates of this caliber, though a healthy Anderson Varejao might.
Yet, does the discrepancy in surrounding talent diminish the significance of what either player has been able to accomplish?
Not at all.
Some forget that the Noah of today wasn't the same player Rose has always played alongside. He, like Rose, was still at a crucial point of development. Should we really chide Rose for being named an MVP despite playing next to a few pieces of star-worthy talent?
Again, absolutely not.
We can't attribute Irving's statistical success to playing for a cellar-dweller either. Cleveland has yet to come close to broaching postseason contention with him, but the Cavaliers border on unwatchable without him.
If we were to break this argument down into collective success on the horizon, it wouldn't do the outcome justice. Chicago is currently more fit to contend than Cleveland (even without Rose), but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
In fact, if we're brutally honest, it's difficult to not believe that Irving has the more promising future of the two.
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What concerns me (and probably many fans) most is Rose's health. He missed 27 regular-season games last season, went on to tear his left ACL in the playoffs and is now faced with the prospect of missing the entire year now.
This is not to say Rose's career is close to over or even in shambles. Al Jefferson, David West and Jamal Crawford, among others across the ranks of professional sports (can you say AP?), are proof that ACL injuries don't ruin careers.
The thing with Rose, and anyone who suffers such an injury, is preventing its repeated occurrence. We've watched knee problems plague the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire, Baron Davis and the still-rehabbing Greg Oden. They're clearly no joke.
There's no doubt in my mind that Rose has taken his rehabilitation seriously. Anyone who has caught even a glimpse of "The Return" episodes know how committed he is. It's frustrating to think he could miss the entire season, but he's taking precautions and doing it right. He won't jeopardize his future by rushing back.
But this is one of those instances that is beyond his control. Rose himself can't guarantee that he'll completely regain the in-game explosiveness and savvy that helped fuel his rise to prominence. There's no guarantee that he is able to cut, slash, jump and run the floor the way he used to.
Rose's is a future shrouded in ambivalence, far more than most active superstars, let alone Irving.
Cleveland's savior has had his fair share of bumps, bruises, broken fingers and jaws, but his injuries aren't as menacing.
Say injuries weren't an issue, though. Say Rose returns to form by next season and resumes his place among the league's elite. Does that change anything?
Of course, but not as much as one would think.
Ignoring the fragility of Rose's knee (to an extent) is imperative here. Much like there is no guarantee he returns better or even on par with the player he was, there is no guarantee Irving doesn't tear his ACL tomorrow.
We must, for the sake of an accurate argument, assume—at least for a second—that these two will be at full strength moving forward.
And it's there where things remain dicey.
When we look back at Rose's sophomore campaign, he posted 20.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 steals per 36 minutes. By comparison, Irving is currently averaging 23.8 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes.
You hardly ever see a race much closer than that.
Often considered the better facilitator of the two, Rose's per-36-minute assist averages are nearly identical to Irving's. The latter even has the edge in the points category as well.
That said, an area in which these players are not comparable is overall efficiency.
Rose, when fully healthy, was easily the more explosive of the two. Irving is extremely athletic, but few players in the league can lift off the ground the way Rose could.
One of the knocks on Rose, though, has always been his jump shot. Per Hoopdata.com, he connected on just 37.3 percent of his field-goal attempts outside of nine feet last season. He was money when he approached the rim (50.9 percent inside of nine feet), but he's always struggled with his jumper.
Irving, on the other hand, has had no such issues. Like Rose, he excels when at the rim and is also currently hitting on 50.9 percent of his shots inside of nine feet. Unlike Rose, he's also converting on 46.2 percent of his attempts outside of nine feet. Toss in Rose's career-best three-point percentage of 33.2, and you'll see it pales in comparison to Irving's 42 percent clip.
This is perhaps the most notable area where the two differ.
Defensively, Rose (prior to his injury) made the sharper, more precise lateral movements, but Irving has proved to be better at monitoring the passing lanes.
When it comes to directing an offense, Rose's career average of 6.8 assists supersedes that of Irving's 5.5, but the latter has kept pace with the former through the first two seasons of their careers.
If we want to be sticklers, there's really not much of a difference in terms of their shooting either. Irving's range knows fewer bounds, but his career clip of 46.8 barely surpasses that of Rose's 46.4.
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Which brings us back to the topic we've spent the last few hundred words avoiding, Rose's injury.
Simple as it may seem to declare this a stalemate, Irving is currently following in Rose's footsteps from a numerical and market-value standpoint while remaining free from the shackles that come with reconstructive knee surgery.
Going back to his time at Duke, Irving has dealt with problems in his hand, foot, jaw and shoulder, and he has missed 26 games in his first two seasons thus far to Rose's four. His livelihood, however, hasn't been threatened the way Rose's has.
Which point guard has the brighter future?
Perhaps Rose will come back just as explosive, crafty and dominant as ever. Should he even toe the line of his former self, he and Irving will battle for the top point guard spot in the Eastern Conference (maybe the league) for years to come.
At present, though, this is a battle Irving is winning. He has the brighter future.
Not because he's more Chris Paul-esque while Rose is more Russell Westbrook-like. Not because he can shoot the three-ball better than Rose. Most certainly not because LeBron James may or may not consider returning to Cleveland.
But because in a contest that's nearly too close to call, Irving is attempting to take his game to new heights, while Rose must fight to revert to his pre-injury form.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
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