Derrick Rose isn't lacking confidence.
When recently interviewed by CNN's Pedro Pinto, he stated that he is the best player in the league.
He now has quite a bold statement to back up on the hardwood. Because he hasn't played since the spring of 2012, there are surely doubts if the 2010-11 MVP should still be viewed as one of the league's best.
Quite frankly, there should even be hesitancy regarding his status as one of the best point guards. With his injury concerns, it's natural to tab the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving ahead of the Chicago Bulls' guard.
It's undisputed that Rose is a top-notch floor general when active, but he enters the 2013-14 campaign with much to prove. What will it take for him to regain the label of the NBA's best point guard?
Improve His Jump Shot
Derrick Rose's athleticism coupled with his ball-handling skills have always made him a remarkable penetrator. As a result, opponents have often given him space and allowed him to shoot.
Rose became a fairly respectable three-point shooter in 2010-11, but he still only connected on 33.2 percent of his treys. The following shot chart, per NBA.com, illustrates his limitations in this arena (for the record, his percentages didn't increase in his injury-plagued 2011-12 venture).
If he can boost this accuracy, then he is well on his way towards reclaiming his place as the league's top point guard. Truthfully, Rose's jump shot should improve. He has had a great deal of time to work on it while rehabbing from injury, and it should thus approach the 37-40 percent range (perhaps higher depending on his shot selection).
Furthermore, he should also display a more efficient pull-up game from 16-24 feet.
It's not like Rose will ever become a Stephen Curry-like player, who brings the ball down and hoists (with legitimate precision) from 27 feet. But, he needs to become sharper in this realm. If he does, opponents will be clueless in their defense of him. There will then be no way to stop him, because he already can beat anybody off the dribble.
Display More Patience
Rose has always had a way of recklessly attacking the rim. It often creates scoring opportunities via his elusive finishes in the lane.
However, he can occasionally be out of control and in turn launch a highly-contested, off-balance floater. He will even at times force a penetration when there is really no opening. Not only are such maneuvers difficult, but they also place him in vulnerable scenarios where another injury could occur.
He should thus wisely exhibit more patience in his approach. This doesn't mean he is passive, but it simply means he reveals prudence regarding when to attack. This will make him a more efficient player while also creating further opportunities for his teammates.
While his scoring could just be at 20-22 points per game (it was 25 in his MVP year) with this mentality, his field goal percentage should ascend as well as his assist tally (while his turnover mark decreases).
If he notches averages around 22 PPG (48-percent from the field, 39-percent from three), 9 assists per game and 2 turnovers an outing, then he is exclaiming his value. Ultimately, this will mean he has matured mentally and implemented patience.
If this unfolds, he will certainly be on his way towards garnering MVP votes.
Become a More Active Defender
Rose has always had room to grow as a defender. He is by no means a liability, especially in Coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive system, but he hasn't found his full potential on this end of the floor.
He could particularly seek improvement as an off-ball defender, which would likely lead to his steal tally increasing. While steals can be misleading in terms of who is really a good defenseman, it would at least be nice to see Rose average more than a steal per outing. This will happen through better awareness away from the ball.
Another area that could use some fine-tuning is his activity on the boards. While the Bulls already possess some effective big men on the glass (Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng), Rose's presence should still be seen more. His career average of 3.8 rebounds per game should head upward this year. 5-plus boards a game is certainly realistic, especially with his leaping ability.
Most importantly, he must become a defensive stalwart against his matchup, especially when it's a fellow elite point guard. It's time for Rose to reveal this versatility to his game, where it's evident that he can completely dominate opponents on both ends of the floor.
The bottom line here is that he has the quickness to guard shifty point guards (i.e. Paul, Parker) and the size and strength to check physical ones (i.e. Westbrook, Williams), so it's time for a breakout season on the defensive end.
Win...and Stay Healthy
The aforementioned issues make no difference if this last point is not at the foundation.
First of all, he needs to squash the injury-prone label that is now accompanying him. If he encounters another significant blow, then there will be reason to wonder about his career longevity. Health is the most important factor in all of this, because if he's healthy, he's going to contribute in convincing fashion.
The other foundational piece to this conversation is the win column. If Rose governs the Bulls to a 60-plus win season, the NBA spectrum will surely recognize his significance.
Furthermore, if the Bulls make major noise in the postseason and perhaps reach the NBA pinnacle, Rose will have made it easy to determine who the game's best point guard is.
In fact, if things play out in this manner, with a 2014 Bulls championship, then the question won't merely be if Rose is the game's best point guard, it will be if he is the best player on the planet.
But, first things first. Health is the primary issue. Then, the previous progressions to his game. If these elements develop, then a Bulls title and an argument for Rose as the world's best player could present themselves.
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