The Chicago Bulls are having an outstanding season, despite rarely getting to play with their inside players completely healthy.
They began the season without Carlos Boozer, their big offseason pickup. He wasn't there for the first month of the season, finally returning at the beginning of December against the Orlando Magic.
Shortly after that, however, Joakim Noah went down and hasn't played since.
In total, the Bulls have played just nine games with both Boozer and Noah in the lineup, and with Boozer hurt again, they may have to play a few more games without either.
The Bulls are 7-2 when both Boozer and Noah are in the lineup, but they have still been able to go 21-12 without one or both of those players.
The reason for this is ESPN's top contender for MVP so far this season, Derrick Rose.
Rose has been playing out of his mind this season, thanks to a developing a three-point shot and improved defense.
Despite no consistent shooter in the starting lineup, Rose has been able to put up numbers that most, if not any, in the NBA would be unable to put up with this current system.
The 22-year-old point guard has been able to lead the Bulls through thick and thin, on offense and defense, and assert himself as one of the best leaders in the NBA.
He has been able to pull off eight assists per game, despite only getting limited playing time from Kyle Korver, the Bulls' best shooter.
Generally, Rose has to take the game into his own hands and push the pace; he routinely drives past defenders and works his way into the lane for the tough layup, and he usually makes it.
He has been able to help spread the floor this season too, shooting about 38 percent from three-point range this season, about the same range as other top point guards Deron Williams and Steve Nash.
On defense, he averages a steal per game and has at least one block in each of his last six.
But the scariest part about Derrick Rose's game is that he is just 22 and is constantly working to improve himself.
He came into the NBA as an average defensive player with a poor shot, who could drive into the lane and get the ball to the open player; he is now a balanced player with great defense who can shoot and drive in the lane.
But the biggest barometer of how good you are in the NBA is how you do in just three categories: points, rebounds and assists.
Although Rose isn't the leader of any of these categories, when you add them up, he is better than any guard in the NBA, and yes, that is including players like Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
When you add in forwards and centers, he ranks fifth, but this is a statistic that favors big men.
If you look at efficiency rating, he is the fifth most efficient guard ahead of other stars like Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant.
The issue that most people have with Rose is that he turns the ball over too much, although it is somewhat usual for a point guard who controls the pace of the offense for his team to have a lot of turnovers.
Despite ranking fourth among guards in turnovers, he is joined in the top 10 by Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and Deron Williams.
As of right now, Derrick Rose is, without a doubt, a top 10 player in the NBA and an MVP candidate, and although he might not be the best right now, he has the work ethic and natural talent to become the best of his time.
A lot of times with a young player, people will say to give him five years, and he will be one of the best of the game; I say give it two and he will be right there at the top.
I'm Joe W.
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