I was thinking about the small list of players in the league that I would trade Derrick Rose for until I came to an interesting conclusion.
There's no one on the list.
No, Derrick Rose isn't the best player in the league. No, I don't think he's likely to become the best player in the league real soon either, but he is the most valuable player in the NBA given his age, ability, and contract situation.
Great players, too short of a career left. Kobe's already in his 30s, and Wade's career will be cut short due to the constant falls.
I think LeBron is the best player in the league for the next five seasons, but he's also an extraordinarily difficult guy to like. He's a diva who's thrown his coach under the bus already and seems to want to take little personal accountability. He appeared to quit on his team in the playoffs last season, and I doubt I'm alone when I say he'd be really difficult to root for.
I'd get over it. The winning would help, and I won't pretend that Rose is the better player of the two, but Rose is the anti-LeBron. He's very likable, easy to root for, seems ready to sacrifice to win, and you won't feel like you sold your soul to get a championship behind him.
At first glance, Howard seems like a guy you'd trade Rose for in terms of value. He provides extraordinary interior defense and very good interior offense. He's a guy that almost no teams can match up with and he changes the game for any team trying to drive the lane.
The problem is the Bulls strength is all in the front court. They don't have any pieces that fit next to Howard. What good is Joakim Noah next to Howard? How good is Boozer next to Howard? Can you realistically move half the high paid players on this team without losing extraordinary amounts of value in order to rebuild around Howard?
I don't think you can. If the Bulls still had a Gordon/Hinrich backcourt (while they were playing and shooting well) then a trade for Howard would make a world of sense. They'd already have good perimeter shooters to complement his inside out game, but now, you'd need to reconstruct the entire team to make it work.
However, go through the league and try and figure out which team gives you a great guard for Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah and ask yourself if the team you have left is really better than what the Bulls have now.
Durant was the consensus MVP candidate going into this season. He's young, dominant, a great character guy, very likable. However, thus far, he's failed to live up to his accomplishments last season. He's playing considerably worse than Rose right now, and while I love Durant, he's a softer player.
The Lakers exposed him in the playoffs last year by playing him extremely physically and shutting him down. He's not really giving you a whole lot outside of his awesome scoring which this year is less awesome than Derrick Rose's scoring, and Rose is giving you better play making for others.
Right now Derrick Rose is outplaying Kevin Durant, he's more physically dominant for his position, more of an interior player, a tougher player, and he has every bit as much upside as Durant. There's simply no reason to make the switch, especially given that Durant is one year deeper into his contract years and will make more money over the same period of time.
Chris Paul (same argument applies for Deron Williams)
In some ways, Paul is the toughest guy to argue about. He's a better play maker than Rose, and he's been a significantly more efficient offensive player this season even though his volume numbers are less. At his peak, he's been as good as any PG to ever play in the NBA. Magic Johnson being the only PG off the top of my head who's peak has definitely been higher.
Paul's also young enough that his age isn't a significant negative factor even if he is three years older than Derrick.
I think Paul is a better player, but you're also inheriting a far worse contract situation. Assume that Paul agrees to stay here past 2012 when he's an unrestricted free agent, then you're still giving him a 2nd tier max contract instead of a 1st tier. Under today's rules, Paul would end up making 6/131 while Derrick will likely sign a 5 year max at 5/87.
Is great as he is, do you really want to pay Paul 44 million more for 1 extra year, risk takin ghim as a UFA, take on a tiny bit more injury risk, and a slightly older player? [hint - the answer is no].
How far is Derrick from the best player in the NBA? I'm not sure, he's clearly top 10 right now, and he's a good bet to be top 5 within the next couple seasons. Given his age, ability, contract situation, coachability, watchability, and likability there's no one in the league I'd take for Rose.