Here are the top five reasons why Derrick Rose should be the 2011 NBA MVP.
Sure, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are in the running, and deservedly so, but no one this season is putting it together like Rose. He is flat out winning, running and making people believe from Chi-Town to the coasts.
The argument ahead is thorough and comprehensive, so take a crack at critiquing it if you dare.
Above is a highlight mix of Derrick Rose's 2010-11 campaign with him thwarting all opposition in his path.
Rose has been so good this year, and has improved as the years have progressed so the likes of Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Tony Parker cannot hold a candle in "Who's better?" conversations.
Rose has confounded the aforementioned point guards with airtight "D" and a dribble-drive game that is as close to revolutionary as we have in the league right now.
It's a blinding combination of crossovers, hesitations, step-backs, step-throughs and misdirection that conjure up some scary combination of Tim Hardaway, Isiah Thomas and God Shammgod's ball-handling skills all rolled into one.
The freakier part is that Rose's jumper from 17-19 feet has improved dramatically, as has his percentage from the arc (33 percent), and that has forced defenders to step up, which they simply can not do if self-preservation is an instinct they possess.
Just ask Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Jameer Nelson, some extremely active and athletic defenders, and they'll most likely say that Rose is on a speed-level like a rookie Allen Iverson, maybe faster.
As for used-to-be Rookie of the Year John Wall? He did all right in the first matchup versus Rose, but the second? Pure domination, as Rose held the stunned rookie to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, while he had 25, five and five in an easy schooling.
If all the point guards mentioned can't figure the guy out then what's left? Help defense? A 1-3-1 zone or box-and-one defense?
Rose made a mockery of his coach's previous team, the Celtics, getting in the lane at will and finishing with Jordan-esque athletic grace at the rim. Who'd ever seen Rondo back on his heels the whole game?
Perhaps the best half-court penetrating finisher of his time, Rose can shoot with either hand and uses the glass like a soft pillow that the ball gently skims off into the hoop.
Simply put, he can't be stopped.
And while he's nearly un-guardable when trying to score, defenders are much worse off if he's passing the ball.
Rose, as we will discuss later, is a quick study in spacing and court dynamics and sees the lanes and crevices as good as any point in the league. The reason he doesn't average more assists is because he's green-lighted to take shots and they need his points to win. You really can't score as much as he does and is asked to and average 10-plus assists per game. The touches just wouldn't allow it with the team dynamics in place. The fact that he does average eight assists per game means that Rose isn't selfish like his points would suggest and his facilitator role isn't lost in his expanded scoring output.
Rose penetrates in the lane through cracks and narrow fits better than anyone, and is adept at passing in crowds similar to Deron Williams and Steve Nash, though he's not as good as Nash. Still, his quickness and vision give him more ability and undeniable upside in the long run.
But if you still need further facts and accomplishments here's a list of Rose's season-long punctuations:
Rose recorded his first career triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 17th.
Rose was voted the starting guard for the East in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.
Rose notched a career-high 42 points along with eight assists and five rebounds during the February 17th matchup with the Spurs, who at the time had the league's best record, defeating them 109-99.
Rose also garnered a career-high 17 assists to go with 30 points and three boards in a March 26th victory over the Bucks.
Okay, enough said.
First, let's take a look at the straight numbers.
16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.9 RPG
20.8 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.7 RPG
24.9 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.1 RPG
Sure seems like consistent improvement, if not downright eye-popping in the scoring and assist columns.
Also impressive is his free-throw shooting, which has skyrocketed from a very respectable, above-average .765 in 2010 to an upper-echelon percentage of .866 this year. His steals have also increased a bit, which in Rose's case shows an increase in intensity and desire since he's more a straight-up defender than attack dog. But his attack dog status is also growing considering coach Tom Thibodeau's history on premium defense—bringing the Houston Rockets up the defensive rung from '04 to '07 and improving the Celtics' security enough to bring them to the '08 NBA Finals.
Some detractors will tell you that Rose's turnover numbers increased by nearly 0.5 over the previous year's numbers and that his field-goal percentage has dropped rather dramatically, from nearly 49 percent in 2010 to 44 percent this year.
Well, to answer the critics: Rose has taken a lot more chances and needed to for the Bulls to win this year. He's had the ball in his hands considerably more because coach Tom Thibodeau sees how the team magnetizes toward Rose's gutsy and heroic style of play.
That being said, Rose is allotted a few more misses since he's hit the ones that count the most, and the same goes for his turnovers, which plainly show an increase in touches and tries. All in all, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that says Rose hasn't improved this year. If the sole criteria for improvement were stats and wins, his development is crystal clear, but he's also become a better leader, example-setter and clutch performer.
Simply put, those are the defining traits of all prior MVPs.
This is the toughest to prove, but here goes.
Chicago is in the middle of a renaissance and it starts from Derrick Rose to Tom Thibodeau on down the line.
The main thing here is focus and experience.
Rose is such a fierce competitor, constantly going at the likes of C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer (who's showed the most improvement averaging 1.4 steals per game in limited minutes), that the guard play on the Bulls is a water-tight ship, especially since the departure of Kirk Heinrich and Chris Duhon.
The three guards who back up Rose have done an admirable job when he's his 10 minutes per game. Bogans and Brewer are controlled yet intense neophytes in the school of Thibodeau and Rose, but their ability to learn on the fly and keep pace was more evident against good teams like San Antonio and Boston.
With four guards more apt to the point, the position—which is the most important on the court—is well stocked for the Bulls, whose run-and-gun style needs a player able to man the break at all times.
This leads to another championship squad necessity: a midrange and long-range game.
Here the Bulls have Luol Deng, whose consistency is frightening, and Kyle Korver, arguably one of the best three-point shooters ever. The combination of these two is similar to the best-record Spurs combo of Matt Bonner and Manu Ginobili in the drive-and-dish-out capability inherent in this guard-dominated squad.
Deng is deadly from 10-18 feet, though not as good at one-on-one plays, and can hit them on the break with as much efficiency as in a half-court set. Korver is a bomber, whose deadeye aim is good for ninth overall in three-point shooting percentage (42 percent), and he's come through in the rhythm and with timeliness so far this year.
First, the Spurs, who lost by 10 to the Bulls on February 17th, have no answer for Rose, who dominated play with 42, eight and five. But also instrumental and telling in that game was the combined play of Kurt Thomas and Carlos Boozer—two hard-driving veteran forwards that cleaned up the boards and gave the aging Spurs' interior defense massive fits.
Also, Brewer played solid D on Tony Parker, and displayed his athleticism by sparking a late run with Rose on the bench. Yeah, this is a regular-season game, but the Bulls have the Spurs' ticket because they're quicker, more intense defensively, clean up the boards better and have an unstoppable force at point guard that Tony Parker just can't check.
Next, the Celtics, who just lost a March 30th battle to the Bulls, are in deep trouble because the Bulls have blood on their minds after the tough '09 playoff loss. The Bulls, at this point, simply do what the Celtics do better a lot of the time, even without Rose in the picture. Chicago can run, shoot from deep, defend, help out in the post and rebound more effectively than aging Boston.
Then, with Rose in, it just gets ridiculous. The fire he's built up for the first team that knocked him out of the playoffs is intense. The way he attacks the Celtics defense and makes Rondo look scared gives you the sense that he will never let this team own him again—they're Rose's Pistons.
Finally, the Heat are probably the biggest problem because they have bigger, physical guards and deep range—just check out James Jones and Mike Bibby. But the Heat have a self-destructive sense about them that sees missed opportunities and big shots bricked in the clutch. Miami's interior defense is lacking the physicality of a Boozer or Noah, who are more willing to get down and dirty than Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony. And Boozer is more talented around the basket than Bosh and Haslem combined, while Noah's gritty second-chance nature would outdo Anthony any day of the week.
Yes, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be nearly impossible to stop, but taking Bosh out of the equation has shown their weakness, and the Bulls interior can do that. One star and a bunch of solid role-players is better than three stars any day. Why? Because basketball is a team game and money really doesn't buy championships.
These teams pose the most serious threat to the Bulls and are the steppingstones the Bulls have to cross physically and psychologically since several members of all three teams have put the Bulls out of the two previous playoffs.
Then there's coach Tom Thibodeau, who seems like a perfect fit for the Bulls, and is in many ways.
But the most important of these is running and defense.
Thibodeau has brought the "Running of the Bulls" back to Chicago, and it is a very welcome sight. Players like Deng, Korver, Brewer and Noah shoot in rhythm more often than not, and the break is the place to do it. The Bulls are also good second-chance opportunists and bang the boards hard in the half-court set, and while looking for put-backs on the break. This is why Chicago has been unstoppable all season
They are scrappy when they need to be, controlled when they ought to be and downright mean in the paint. This physicality is because ex-defensive coach Thibodeau won't allow missed defensive assignments or opportunities slide, and these turn into easy buckets for the Bulls and plenty of room for Rose to run his show.
Above all, Rose is the reason they're here.
His electric, captivating and courageous play has Chicago and NBA fans cheering again. He captures the popular imagination of his team and his followers like few else.
He's pass-first, and extremely peripheral, but he knows when it's his time.
That is why Thibodeau has given him the free reign he deserves—it's reserved for transcendent players like Rose.
Having the point guard as the glue is most important, and that is why they don't often win MVPs. Because the brightest light is on them, they need the toughest skin and most personable demeanor. Magic Johnson had that and was a winner. Isiah Thomas had it too. Steve Nash is also a rare talent with skill and poise.
Derrick has it, his team is 59-20 and no one stands in his or his team's way.
First, the city.
Simply put, Chicago is a town for winners and has been since around, say, 1984?
Just like New York, Chi-Town is a basketball mecca due to its history, love of the game and in churning out high-quality players: Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Tim Hardaway to name a few.
It's summer pro leagues, inner-city rec leagues and street ball heroes have created a whole host of legends and myths. They all give real luster to the city's already sterling reputation of having had, for nearly all the '90s, the NBA's greatest basketball show.
With Michael Jordan as basketball's greatest showman and five-time league MVP, the city's recent basketball heritage is uber-difficult to live up to. Even expecting someone to come into that burning spotlight and be seen as "Chicago's Savior" would likely create too much of a burden for most players i.e. Eddie Curry and Ben Gordon.
But here we have Derrick Rose—a point guard of which the last true Bulls great was named Sloan—who is attempting and succeeding in the United Center on a level not seen since his Airness.
Because he can thrill and open imaginations, handle the pressure with grace and focus and is a winner, he deserves that Chicago mantle and the league MVP.
Some winner's stats:
How many seasons did it take Jordan to win 60 games? The answer is seven. Rose is going to do it in three.
How many current players eventually failed to live up to the hype in their hometowns? LeBron James, Baron Davis and Stephon Marbury, just to name a few? So Rose is only in his third season, but homeboy-makes-good is simply more enduring in Chicago, where the Midwest city isn't as diluted by closer states, boroughs and counties. Places are just harder to leave when they are not by the ocean.
By all accounts Rose is beating the hype in his hometown right now with praise coming from a source of greatness.
According to ESPN Radio, John Paxson, the Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations and three-time title winner, said in response to whether they knew how good Rose was going to be: "I don't think any of us knew that...Being around Michael for so many years and Scottie...There is something unique inside the heart and mind of a great player, I think we're seeing that with Derrick now."
Hefty names and words to throw out there, but then again, he should know.
Yes, Chicago is behind Derrick Rose. Not just because he was born and raised there; not because of his super stats or freakish athleticism; not because he's winning.
It's the mold they've come to expect—skills, character traits, attitude and style—the mold of a Jordan or Pippen. Derrick is cut from the same.
As said in the "Title Contenders" slide there are few point guard MVPs because of the daunting pressure that comes inherent in that position.
Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson (not really) and Steve Nash are the only point guards to win the MVP, though you could make the case for Larry Bird, as he truly controlled the game while on the floor.
It's nice to have lived in a decade where a point guard did win the MVP. Maybe it's the vote for the traditionally "little" guy. Maybe it's the "getting everyone else involved hurts my gaudy stats" argument. Or maybe it's just that the guys are in plain sight and simply get taken for granted in the historical "down in the trenches" game of the NBA.
Well, the game is changing. It's good to see that although players are getting more muscular, the league's speed is increasing and evolving toward guard play.
A couple decades ago you wouldn't see four guards in the game at one time. That would be crazy.
Today, small forwards are nearly interchangeable with shooting guards. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant are pretty much natural shooting guards with post games (a la Michael Jordan), but their physiques are fine to accommodate the small forward position as well.
The delicate balance of speed and power will shift to speed as predominant for a few reasons. Athletes are capable of harnessing both but the fluidity of basketball will always need lean and limber players who can run quick, jump high and get on the floor fast. It's the evolution the players and fans want because it makes the game more exciting, more action-packed and shows that the days of slow-down, stall-'em offenses are dead and happily gone. Speed is much harder to attain naturally than strength, so much so that there's way more of a premium for fast and strong than just strong than ever before.
The NBA's display is so unique, with all the ball-handling possibilities and fast-break opportunities out there, that the face of the NBA's evolution should be exactly this: a creative ball-handling wizard with speed and strength that uses all the pivot, isolation and open-court moves mustered in the last couple decades to create a whole style of movement in the NBA.
Right now that player is Derrick Rose.
Watch the highlights and the control. His gifts are diagonal and oblique. They are five to 20 feet in two seconds. They are hesitant and fluid at the same time, like a waterfall hitting rocks on the way down.
His speed creates the spacing, but the knowledge of where to go is most transcendent. If you watch you will always see the point guard magnet—that fair bit of movement every player does toward the dribbling 1 guard. Rose is a master at this because he knows he can take his man left or right just five feet off the center of half court and shift the defense just as much. Then he strikes with a God Shammgod-like off-footed back dribble and is at full speed in a split second and scoring. No one playing does it better.
Yes, Rose is the future of the NBA because he already is where the game needs to go. There is so much space wasted in the NBA by die-cast position players—Rose is opening it up. If one side is clogged, go to the other; if the baseline's blocked go to the top of the key, but misdirect and show up there alone, always.
The movement we lose in isolation plays (long, droll post moves and crowding at the basket) is what makes the game dull. Movement by all players, spacing, misdirection and ball-handling freedom is an unstoppable offense. Nash knew it, and still does it. Rose is his stronger and faster protege. Let's not stay in the past, NBA officials. Give the future its due.