Fellow TrueHoop Networker Matt Moore recently posted the following glowing appraisal of Derrick Rose at Hardwood Paroxysm: “He’s worlds above every player on that team. The style on offense is flashing and brutal. He’s active and focused on defense, never frantic, never lost. He’s certain with his movement, slick with this adjustments, and there’s not a piece of his game I haven’t seen from him. Hustle, rebounding, touch, power, speed, quickness, anticipation.”
That makes for great copy, and it certainly mirrors the media’s general assessment of this year’s Bulls squad: They suck, but Rose is great! However, I’m not sure that’s entirely and unerringly accurate. Not right now, at any rate.
Don’t get me wrong, Rose is really, really good. But “worlds above every player on that team” is, at this point, a fairly serious overstatement. Ben Gordon is a better and (believe it or not) more efficient scorer (Gordon has a True Shooting Percentage of 57.1 compaired to 51.0 for Rose). Kirk Hinrich is a better playmaker. Luol Deng, now that he’s finally healthy, provides more of an all-around contribution (not to mention more consistent mid-range marksmanship). And if you want some advanced stats, here they are: Rose trails teammates Gordon, Joakim Noah and Deng in both Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares. (According to John Hollinger’s rankings, he’s 11th among rookies in PER.) Rose ranks eighth on the team in Offensive Rating (105 points per 100 possessions), trailing guys like Joakim Noah (117), Aaron Gray (111) and even Larry Hughes (106). He’s also dead last on the team in terms of his individual Plus-Minus score (-87).
As for the “active and focused on defense, never frantic, never lost” part, as someone who’s been watching every Bulls game avidly, it just ain’t true. He gets lost. Even burned at times. (For further reading, please refer to The Revenge of Andre Miller.) If by “active and focused” Matt meant “he’s trying hard,” okay, sure. But there’s a reason why Derrick is tied (with Ben Gordon) for the second-worst Defensive Rating on the team (112 points given up per 100 possessions). And, to a certain extent, that’s to be expected. He’s a rookie who’s still learning what it means to play NBA-caliber defense. They’re called growing pains, and Rose is going through them.
Mind you, none of this is meant to demean Derrick’s talent or his importance to the team. He is, without question, The Man of Today and Tomorrow. It’s just that the massive and widespread praise of his game is due in part to his solid play through 48 games but also to his enormous potential. He can (and very likely will) become one of the league’s elite point guards. He is, at the current time, merely a very good one. That’s why he may one day be an All-Star but, as of now, is not.
For the record, the same thing happened this season with the Chicago Bears’ rookie running back Matt Forte. The “great” label was slapped on him a little too early because he exceeded expectations and happened to be the brightest spot on a rather mediocre (and ultimately disappointing) team. But he had exactly three 100-yard rushing games…against the winless Detroit Lions, the hapless St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts, who have long had the league’s worst rushing defense. And his 77.4 YPG average had him on the outside looking in at the top ten.
My take on Rose is as follows: He’s terribly strong and atheltic for his position. A fearless penetrator and fantastic finisher. So-so jump shooter (and kinda bad from beyond the arc). Thus far an average to (at times) slightly above-average playmaker who gets many of his assists off of simple drive-and-kicks. An okay defender who can be (and often is) taken advantage of by more experienced guards. Hasn’t yet adjusted to uncalled contact on his drives. Very good with the talent and determination to be great. Someday.