Derrick Rose vs. Chris Paul: Debating Who's the Best Point Guard in the NBA
For many NBA fans, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul represent some of the best young talent the NBA has to offer. Both players are talented all around and are quite skilled at making teammates better and scoring in dominant fashion.
Perhaps the most important characteristic is that both (so far) have proven to be model citizens in the NBA. In an era that has seen Ron Artest and the “Malice at the Palace” brawl, the technical fouls amassed by Rasheed Wallace, Shaquille O’Neal making distasteful rap songs and Michael Jordan committing several cases of adultery, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul seem to be like a breath of fresh air.
For the NBA to move forward and clean up its image, these players can definitely help. And given their talents, they will likely contend for many postseasons into late May and June.
This piece continues on the NBA Debate Team series on Bleacher Report, featuring featured columnists Rich Fernandes and Ethan S. While we compare these two superstars in different ways, we hope that you enjoy the format.
Feel free to share your opinions, as your comments are always welcome.
Was CP3's 2007-08 MVP Like Year Better Than Rose's MVP Year? (Rich)
It was the season of 2007-08 when Chris Paul made his mark in the NBA as a superstar point guard.
That year, CP3 took the reins of the New Orleans Hornets and led them to the second best record (56-26) in a very tough Western Conference and a first place finish in the South West. Unfortunately, the Bees missed an appearance in the Western Conference Finals when they lost in the second round, in a hard fought, seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs.
In fact, the 2007-08 NBA season has become the Hornet's benchmark season as the best in franchise history.
And Chris Paul led his team, while handing in a double-double season average of at least 20 points and 10 assists per game, an extremely rare feat by the NBA’s high standards.
Enter Derrick Rose in his superstar breakout 2010-11 season at the same age (22) that Paul was in 2007-08, a fact that makes this argument even more compelling than it already is.
On the surface, Rose has done two things better than Paul: He has taken his team to the third round of the NBA playoffs (and still going), and he won the regular season MVP.
But who really had the better breakout season at the tender age of 22, Rose or Paul?
Looking at individual stats brings to the attention some very close comparisons. Each player started in at least 80 games for their respective teams, where each played approximately 37 MPG. Both of their free throw percentages rang in at 85 percent, and their RPG numbers are at approximately 4.0 each per game.
Rose is the clear winner in PPG at 25 to Paul’s 21.1 (taking 19.7 attempts per game compared to Paul’s 16.1), and in block shots at 0.6 per game to 0.1 for Paul.
Paul is the clear winner in the more important point guard stats: FG% (0.488 to 0.445); in 3P% (0.369 to 0.332); in assists (11.6 to 7.7); and in steals (2.7 to 1.0).
Paul also had fewer turnovers to go with those higher assist numbers (2.5 to 3.4).
It’s also noteworthy to point out that Paul led the league in steals three times (2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11), and this includes an NBA record of 108 successive games with at least one steal in 2007-08.
Moreover, Paul played in a much tougher Western Conference with a lesser supporting cast than Rose did this season. It’s also true that Rose’s Eastern Conference foes were fairly weak when you look past the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic.
A non-debatable fact, however, is that Chris Paul’s incredible accomplishment of scoring at least 20 PPG and dishing out at least 10 assists per game put him in the most rare, prestigious and exclusive club in NBA history—a club that Rose does not yet belong to. The last player to join that legendary club was Tim Hardaway in 1992. The other five members include Oscar Robinson, Tiny Archibald, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson.
Inclusion into the 20 points and 10 assists club should have been enough for Paul to win the MVP award that year over Kobe Bryant—whom himself had a very fine year, but not one for the record books (when you look at the overall season itself and not individual games).
After deliberating over the above facts, it should be an obvious conclusion that CP3’s 2007-08 season was indeed better than Rose’s MVP season—especially since it was one of the best seasons handed in by a point guard in the history of the NBA.
Was CP3's 2007-08 MVP Like Year Better Than Rose's MVP Year? (Ethan)
Both the 2007-08 MVP season for Chris Paul and the 2010-2011 season for Derrick rose were impressive.
There are many factors that should be considered when trying to determine which season was better.
First, let’s compare the stats straight up:
Chris Paul: 21.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 11.6 apg, 0.1 bpg, 2.7 spg, 49% FG, 37% 3FG, 85% FT, 2.5 TO
Derrick Rose: 25.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.7 apg, 0.6 bpg, 1.0 spg, 45% FG, 33% 3FG, 86% FT, 3.4 TO
In looking at Paul’s season, he led the league that year in assists and steals and had an incredible 4.6 assists per turnover.
Rose’s season was also remarkable, and he proved to put up better scoring numbers, more blocks and a slightly higher free-throw conversion rate.
Although Rose earned the MVP award, there are a few reasons why Paul seemed to have the better season.
First, while both players made the All-NBA First Team, Paul made the All-Defensive Second Team and was clearly more impactful on defense. He was known to shut down opponents and leading the league in steals was definitely an amazing feat.
Second, while Paul also led the league in assists per game, Rose didn’t lead the league in any major statistical category. While Rose averaged about four more points per game, he also took about four more shots each game. It appears that Paul had the better all-around game.
Third, while Paul averaged 4.6 turnovers per game, Rose averaged just 2.2 turnovers per game. Hence, Paul proved to be more than twice as good at ball-handling as Rose.
Fourth, let’s consider the strength of the competition. Chris Paul led the New Orleans Hornets to 56 wins and the second best record in a tough Western Conference that featured eight teams that won at least 50 games.
While Rose’s team efforts seem to be better, leading the Chicago Bulls to the best mark in the NBA with 62 wins, the Eastern Conference was not nearly as tough this past season compared to the Western Conference that Paul faced. This past season, there were only four elite teams in the East (Chicago, Boston, Orlando, and Miami).
It can also be argued that Rose had the better teammates compared to Paul. The Chicago Bulls had a very talented roster this year with an All-Star in Carlos Boozer, an amazing all-around player in Luol Deng and great role players in Joakim Noah, Keith Bogans, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.
While Kobe Bryant won the MVP award in 2008, Paul was equally deserving of the award.
Rose definitely had a season for the ages, becoming the youngest NBA MVP at just 22 years. But in a head-to-head comparison of these two seasons, Paul seems to have the edge.
When Ranking the Best NBA Superstars Today, Where Do Rose and Paul Rank? (Rich)
There are currently many talented superstars in the NBA, but this season marks a reshuffling of the deck.
Blake Griffin is the most exciting thing to happen to the NBA since the age of Vinsanity. Much is expected from this young gun—hopefully he doesn’t flameout like Vince Carter.
Out indefinitely are Boston’s Big Three that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen—their playoff dominance is a thing of the past.
Joining the Boston tea party are San Antonio’s three amigos (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili)—who are equally efficient at pulling off a disappearing act as their Boston counterparts.
New York’s defenders, Amar'e Stoudemire and Caremelo Anthony are still too defenseless to make this list.
Kobe Bryant has slipped as well—not because of his intense drive but because of his declining game. Yet age, an unrecoverable bone-on-bone knee condition, and his inability to practice is not enough to keep him off this list—not in the same way it has kept the young and talented tragedy known as Brandon Roy.
Steve Nash is also not getting pushed off this list. He is still one of the best pure point guards in the league.
Dirk Nowitzki’s stock has increased with his playoff dominance, and he’s begun to age like a fine German wine—a far cry from the vinaigrette he’s pretended to be over the past several seasons. But no championship this year will again fill Dallas fans with a sour taste in their mouths.
A continued effort by Andrew Bynum and his ridiculous second half season will put him on this list soon enough—just not yet. Ditto goes for LeMarcus Aldridge and Zack Randolph.
LeBron James’ 2010-2011 Season should have earned him his third straight MVP over Derrick Rose—if not for the fact that he also earned the Most Valuable Brick award for his clutchless inability to close out games. James was also unable to beat Rose during the regular season—and people have not forgotten the classlessness that stands out like a stained rug, especially when MVP voters held him up to the light against a comparatively angelic Rose.
Whether you want to admit it or not, Kevin Love has indeed established himself as a superstar by parting the Red Sea and having a Moses Malone like season.
Another thing you may not want to admit: The L.A. Lakers’ crucified scapegoat known as Pau Gasol is the fifth most efficient player in the NBA—sorry, just can’t leave him off this list.
Here are the top 15 Superstars in the NBA today:
When Ranking the Best NBA Superstars Today, Where Do Rose and Paul Rank? (Ethan)
When considering the top NBA stars in the game today, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul should be on everyone’s list.
With his play in the most recent playoffs, Derrick Rose’s stock is rising quickly. The postseason is how legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant separated themselves from their peers.
While I would disagree at the notion that Derrick Rose was the best player in the NBA this season (I would have placed LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki ahead of him), Rose may be the best player in the playoffs this year.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul had a phenomenal series against the Lakers this year, playing like his dominant self before he got injured over the past couple of seasons. Before the last game played against LA, Paul’s numbers might have been better than Rose’s.
Nevertheless, I am not 100 percent convinced that Paul has completely gotten past his injuries and that they will not slow him down in the future. If he can play like he did in the postseason, he will definitely be among the top 5 players in the league and maybe even the best.
With these considerations, I would rank LeBron James and Dwight Howard as the two best players in the NBA, followed closely by Dwyane Wade. I would rank Derrick Rose fourth in the NBA right now and behind the other players because I consider the three ranked higher than him to be better defenders.
Right behind Wade, I have Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. Chris Paul would rank around eighth among the top stars in the league in my opinion and definitely in the top 10.
Who Makes the Better Number One Option? (Rich)
Both superstars can play off the ball with ease. Both superstars are multi-dimensional offensive threats that can deliver while on the perimeter or by driving through the paint. Both superstars have mastered offensive and defensive transitions, contributing on both ends of the floor—a result of their high basketball IQs and work ethics. Most importantly, both superstars are natural born leaders.
The number one option for an NBA team should be the player that not only has a talent for scoring, but concentrates his abilities toward that endeavor first and foremost over any other contribution.
Within that context, it’s not difficult to conclude that Derrick Rose makes a better number one option than Chris Paul, because when Rose has the ball, his first priority is to score.
And this is the major difference between Rose and Paul.
Rose is a shoot first, pass second point guard. Paul is a pass first, shoot second point guard.
Chris Paul concentrates his abilities in getting his teammates involved in the offense and in the process, makes them better. David West, more often than not, was the Hornets’ number one option.
But Paul has never shied away from taking over the offense when his team needs him, and he has done just that on many occasions, by literally putting his team on his back.
A clear example of this was in the first round of the playoffs in which Paul carried his team to two wins against the L.A. Lakers. David West was out of the lineup due to injury, yet Paul grabbed rebounds like he was a dominant center, dished out assists like it was nobody’s business (in double digits of course), and single-handedly increased the potential limits of his talent deficient teammates.
So the question of who makes a better number one scoring option has been answered, and it’s undoubtedly Derrick Rose.
But a more important question might be: Should the point guard of a team be the team’s offense (Rose), or should the point guard be the quarterback who works toward facilitating the team’s offensive schemes?
In case you’re wondering, that is a rhetorical question.
Who Makes the Better Number One Option? (Ethan)
When Chris Paul’s jumper is on target, Paul may be the best number one option in the league. However, his mid-range and outside shots don’t always fall.
This is one reason why Derrick Rose makes the better number one option. While his outside shooting touch is also streaky, Rose is one of the quickest players in the NBA. With a glaring advantage in athleticism over Paul, Rose is one of the best guards all-time at dribble penetrating and finishing near the rim.
It was quite impressive how Rose led Chicago’s attack during crunch time against the Pacers and the Hawks, seeming to dominate late game situations over and over again.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Rose’s game is the ability to get close shots in the final seconds of a game. Other stars are known for hitting clutch shots in the closing seconds, such as Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. However, none of these players have the speed and ability currently to reliably get a last second shot as a layup at the basket like Rose can.
While Rose’s field goal percentage dipped this year compared to past seasons, part of that was due to his shot selection (taking more three-pointers). In actuality, his true shooting number shot up from 53 percent last season to 55 percent this year. So in fact, Rose is scoring more efficiently than ever before.
Even when Rose misses a shot off of penetration, so much attention is given by opponents to stop him that it frees up players like Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to crash the boards and get second opportunities.
While Paul is a better playmaker and ball handler in comparison, Rose is learning how to be a more dominant scoring point guard. His 7.7 assists per game this season was a career high and a respectable number.
But when it comes to the ability to dominate and carry a team as the number one option (especially in the clutch), Rose has propelled himself ahead of Paul.
How Would Rose and Paul Do If They Each Played for the Other's Team? (Rich)
Who would argue the fact that when looking at the 2010-11 versions of the Hornets and Bulls, Chicago has the better collection of players for a point guard to work with? That includes both the starting rotation and one of the league’s best benches.
Chris Paul guided a team made up of castoff parts and unexceptional players (excluding David West), to a winning season. This fact becomes even more amazing when you consider that the Hornets were thrown together like a patchwork quilt—they understandably lacked any kind of chemistry or synergy.
The experts expected a losing season from that bunch to mark the beginning of a major rebuilding project for the Hornets.
But Chris Paul found a way to push the envelope of each of his teammates by making them better, and the Hornets won a surprising 46 games, including a few stretches of eye popping win streaks.
How would Rose perform with David West, who routinely falls apart after reaching the 20-point plateau; Trevor Ariza, who jacks up so many shots but can’t hit the broad side of a barn, or Emeka Okafor, who is consistently MIA—and the rest of that bunch that are not even worth mentioning.
Rose would undoubtedly get his points as the number one option, but it’s unlikely his style of play could raise the level of play of the rest of the Hornets. Therefore, anyone else not named Paul, Nash or Deron, would have led those same Hornets to a losing season—that includes Derrick Rose.
Now imagine CP3 as the offensive facilitator for the Chicago Bulls, a better team from the ground up than the New Orleans Hornets.
It’s not inconceivable to surmise that Paul would have a hand in helping Noah, Boozer and Deng increase their collective scoring output, because that is what he does. Out of those three, only Deng’s scoring stats are better than his previous campaigns, and it’s possible that Paul could make even him better.
In contrast, and while Derrick Rose had an amazing year, he does not make his teammates noticeably better—simply because he is a shoot first, pass second player, and he converts his teammates into bystanders most of the time.
In Game 4 versus the Atlanta Hawks, Rose was an atrocious 12-of-32 from the field, and people are beginning to wonder about his shot selection, as well as his need to take so many shots—especially when he’s surrounded by competent players. His response also leads you to think he doesn’t trust his teammates as much as he should, because at no time does he indicate that he was trying to exploit their strengths when his game was not on:
"It's definitely not a good number, I was just missing shots. Just looking at all the film, I missed a ton of layups, layups that I normally [make]. And I was taking a whole bunch of shots, or a whole bunch of jump shots. Those are shots that I normally make.”
How Would Rose and Paul Do If They Each Played for the Other's Team? (Ethan)
Overall, Rose and Paul would do well if they switched teams.
Regarding the Chicago Bulls, Paul’s play might slow down some of the fast break play, but he would help make the players around him shine. Similar to how Paul helped David West become an All-Star, he would be able to help Boozer get more easy looks at the basket.
Luol Deng and Joakim Noah would also benefit by being set up by the premier playmaking ability of Paul, as he is may be the best in the NBA at increasing the scoring outputs of teammates. In short, the Chicago Bulls could win just as much with Chris Paul leading the charge as with Derrick Rose.
With the New Orleans Hornets, Rose would likely use his quickness and athletic ability to speed up the offensive tempo. Whereas Chicago has strong bruisers like Noah and Boozer, the Hornets have more finesse-type players like Carl Landry, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.
Since David West relies on pick-and-roll plays a lot (a strength of Paul’s game), West’s production might suffer a bit. However, the rest of the players would benefit from the play of Rose.
Therefore, it seems likely that Rose could also lead the current Hornets team into the playoffs and possibly even win a series or two.
How Will Rose and the Bulls Fair Versus the Lakers or Knicks with Paul? (Rich)
Rose and Paul have whiplash like crossovers that can literally break ankles, but Rose is far more explosive than Paul, with athletic ability that has him posterizing players much bigger than himself—and he is quite possibly the best one-on-one player in the league.
Paul sees the floor far more clearly than Rose and is therefore the better floor general by virtue of quick anticipation and reaction to opposing defenses—and getting all his teammates involved in the process is his first priority.
Both the Lakers and Knicks have been reported as favorite destinations for CP3, so it’s interesting to contemplate how CP3 would fair against Rose’s Bulls once he is surrounded by better teammates.
Scoring is obviously not a problem for either the Lakers or the Knicks, but each lacks a sturdy point guard—Billups has declined and has become injury prone, and Fisher is nothing more than a mannequin.
With that said, CP3’s quickness, floor vision and perseverance in pushing the talent limits of all his teammates would make both those teams deadly in the playoffs.
New York would still have to bolster its bench, and the pursuit of a legitimate center would also help their cause, but Paul would undoubtedly make them better.
And Lakers’ fans are strongly contemplating the favorable implosion of their team, when all they need is Chris Paul to make them better, along with some major lessons in maturity.
Therefore, it’s fair to conclude that if CP3 can make winners out of a talent deficient club like the Hornets, the sky is the limit for the present Lakers and Knicks.
Paul makes both the Knicks and the Lakers more competitive versus the one man offense of Rose and the Chicago Bulls.
How Will Rose and the Bulls Fair Versus the Lakers or Knicks with Paul? (Ethan)
Speculation of Chris Paul being traded to the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers is always interesting. While Hornets’ fans would prefer to keep their franchise player, it could be exciting to see Paul get the attention he deserves playing in one of the biggest markets (and likely picking up more endorsement deals as well).
If Chris Paul played for the New York Knicks, I would expect the pace to pick up as Paul would likely replace Chauncey Billups in the starting lineup. He would be able to set up Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in their best positions to score. Paul would also force opponents to guard dribble penetration more from the point guard position compared to playing against Billups.
With a Big Three of Paul, Stoudemire and Anthony, the Knicks would likely become one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. However, without adding other pieces, the lack of bench depth and front court size would keep the team from seriously contending for the championship.
If Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, LA would most likely have to give up either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Overall, Paul would be a much-needed infusion of youth for the Lakers.
As opposed to being a liability at the point guard position, the one position would become a strength of the team.
As he does so well, Paul would be able to help set up scorers like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Matt Barnes with better looks at the basket. With Bynum, Paul could help him establish a more dominant post game, including some lob passes near the rim (similar to when Paul played with Tyson Chandler).
If Paul played with Pau Gasol, he could also help Gasol get the ball deep in the post, as well as perfect the pick-and-roll with the Lakers’ big man.
Furthermore, Paul’s excellent defensive ability would be highly valued in LA as the team might finally be able to slow down quick opposing point guards. The inability to prevent point guards from having career games has definitely been an Achilles’ heel for the Lake Show.
It seems that Paul would experience more success with the Lakers given the talent level of the roster. In Los Angeles, Chris Paul would be contending every year that Kobe Bryant and either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum were around.
Who Is the Better PG? (Rich)
An NBA point guard’s responsibilities resemble that of an NFL quarterback—he is the one who runs the offense, because he is the team’s offensive facilitator.
A point guard is no different, where the pass first, shoot second philosophy is ingrained within his psyche.
The freedictionary.com defines the point guard as “the position of the player responsible for directing the team's attacking play.”
Conversely, and within the context of the above definition, Derrick Rose is not a point guard, because he “is” the team’s attacking play—but to be fair, at no time has he pretended to be anything else. This leaves us with the obvious conclusion that Rose is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.
Simply put, Chris Paul is a point guard, and Derrick Rose is not.
When it comes to pure point guards that are also considered NBA superstars, only Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams join Paul in that exclusive group. Even Russell Westbrook (a superstar in his own right) is not a pure point guard.
Notice that Paul, Nash and Williams can score with impunity and often lead their respective teams in scoring, but the major difference between these players and Derrick Rose is that while they all can shoot, their main purpose is to facilitate the offense.
Chris Paul is without question, the better point guard—he can create off the dribble with the best of them (and we’re talking NBA history here).
CP3 just makes everyone else around him that much better—it’s what he does.
In retrospect, Rose’s shooting guard style of play makes this Paul vs. Rose debate an apples vs. oranges argument—neither is necessarily better than the other. Derrick Rose is definitely a better shooting guard then Paul, who is undoubtedly a better point guard than Rose.
Being built like a point guard and playing like a shooting guard makes Rose the second coming of Allen Iverson—without the obnoxious classlessness, of course. And that’s a huge and fitting compliment for this exciting superstar.
Who Is the Better PG? (Ethan)
When answering this question, there are two ways one can go.
If considering the best pure point guard, then Chris Paul is definitely better than Derrick Rose. This is in regards to his playmaking and ball handling abilities.
However, when talking about which point guard is the better player, Rose right now is playing better.
While it’s remarkable that Paul kept his Hornets team in the playoffs after David West got injured, it’s more impressive that Rose led the Bulls to the best record in the league despite significant absences by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
Not only is Rose the more dominant scorer over Paul, but he is also effective at making teammates better. For example, Luol Deng has had a great year in part due to Rose setting him up in good scoring positions.
In addition, part of the reason Joakim Noah averaged a double-double (despite his limited offensive capabilities) is due to the passes and dribble drives by Rose.
Chris Paul may prove me wrong and come back as dominant as he was in the playoffs, seeming to make everyone forget about his past injuries that have slowed him down. However, I think that’s unlikely.
Paul will continue to be one of the better players in the league. But at a younger age with a sky high potential, Rose will continue to be the best point guard in the NBA.
About the Authors
Rich is a resident of Toronto, Ontario and is an avid sports nut. Rich’s favorite sports include: NHL Hockey, NFL Football, NBA Basketball and Ultimate Fighting. Rich also loves playing the game of squash and he goes downhill skiing in the winter. Rich has found Bleacher Report to be an enjoyable experience as well as the ultimate platform for the serious sports fan. Rich's favorite writer (other than Ethan S.) is Robert Ludlum, unfortunately Rich has read all of his novels.
Ethan lives near Seattle, WA and enjoys spending free time between work and family obligations by writing and engaging on Bleacher Report. Ethan’s favorite sports include NFL Football and NBA Basketball. In addition, Ethan has interests in outdoor sports and aerospace. He enjoys the articles of the many talented writers on the site (including Rich Fernandes), and appreciates the support he has received from community members.
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