Through 55 games this season, Derrick Rose is having a breakout, career, and MVP-type season. He has not only led the Chicago Bulls to a surprising 39-17 record, but he's improved in nearly every single statistical category from last year.
Rose is averaging 25 points, 8.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game this season. Last season, Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.0 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game this season.
He's seen a big increase in points and assists, and has averaged around 4-5 rebounds per game all season. Another great improvement from last season for Rose is his defense: he's done a better job staying with point guards on the pick-and-rolls and is averaging a career-high 1.0 steal per game.
The Bulls have missed Carlos Boozer for 18 games and Joakim Noah for 30. Yet they're looking at the standings on February 25, 2011 in the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, just 2 games behind the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
He's gotten his share of help; one player in specific: Luol Deng. Deng isn't put up the numbers he put up in his career-year of 2006-07, but he's hit several clutch shots -- the Miami one standing out the most -- played heavy minutes all season, and has been as consistent as a player can be.
Still, the main reason why the Bulls are 39-17 is Rose. He's the leading MVP candidate in the NBA at the age of 22.
As Boozer said after last night's win over the Heat, imagine how good Rose will be at 25: "And it's crazy because he's (Rose) 22, he just keeps growing. So it's going to scary to see him when he turns 25."
Rose has played like the best overall point guard all season. Sure, he isn't averaging 9-10 assists per game, but he's dominated on offense -- and defense for stretches -- from the point guard position, making his team a legit contender.
Hypothetically, would the Bulls trade Rose for another elite player in the NBA?
Players the Bulls would not trade Rose for:
Kobe Bryant: Being a Bryant fan, it's tough to pick another player over him. But if you're starting a franchise right now, it would be dumb to take Bryant over Rose.
Rose is 10 years younger than Bryant (32) and is putting up better numbers nearly every where. Bryant is the better clutch player -- but really, who is in the conversation with him? That much we know, but the age factor is what turns this into Rose's favor.
Bryant has a couple more seasons left playing at this star level, while Rose has over a decade.
Give me Rose over Bryant.
Chris Paul/Deron Williams: As mentioned earlier, Rose is the best point guard in the NBA right now. The Bulls wouldn't even consider trading him for Paul or Williams.
Paul and Williams might be better distributors of the ball, but Rose brings a better package on offense with his shooting, driving, and clutch performance. He's also held them to a combined 28 points in two back-to-back games against the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Hornets.
Williams, Paul, and Russell Westbrook are all in the first-tier of point guards, but Rose is clearly leading that tier with his play this season and young age.
Dwyane Wade: The battle of two homegrown talents. The age difference between these two players in the age department isn't as drastic as it was with Bryant, but Rose is still 7 years younger than Wade.
Besides that, he's also shown that he's the better three-point shooter and a better athlete. Wade is a straight scorer, sometimes getting teammates involved in the game. However, his playmaking ability has regressed this season -- and it's not because of LeBron James.
Wade is averaging a career-low 4.4 assists per game, his worst since 2003-04 (rookie season) when he averaged 4.5.
Rose has done a great job doing everything for the Bulls and without his all-around performance the Bulls wouldn't be 22 games over .500. The Bulls don't need Wade's flat scoring as much as they need Rose's all-around dominance on offense.
Rose will only get better -- he's yet to hit his sealing -- can you say the same about Wade? Don't think so. Rose over Wade.
Players the Bulls would consider trading Rose for:
LeBron James: The Bulls would definitely think hard about trading Rose for James.
Both players are very athletic, smart, and have a great feel for the game. Two things that shift the advantage in Rose's favor are shooting and the clutch gene.
James, as we saw from his 4th quarter three-point brick last night, has been criticized several times throughout his career for his poor play when his team needs him more. Widely known is Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals when James had 15 points and 3 turnovers on 3-for-14 shooting in 42 minutes. The Cavaliers lost 120-88 in what was a 2-2 series at the time.
James is a very inconsistent shooter and a career 33% shooter from three-point land. Rose has the mid-range game down pat, something James still doesn't even though he's in his 8th season, and is now creating a three-point game.
Hypothetically, the Bulls would give this a hard look at, but quite frankly, Rose is the LeBron James of the point guard position -- except a better shooting, clutch version.
Dwight Howard: Even though the Bulls have an All-Star caliber center in Joakim Noah, they'd be foolish to not consider Howard.
With Howard, the Bulls would be contenders year-in-year-out. He's that good on both ends.
Only things that have been questioned with Howard is his free-throw shooting and demeanor. Howard is a career 60% free-throw shooter and many fans have pointed to his fun, nonchalant attitude as a reason why the Orlando Magic haven't won it all.
Still, they are two years removed from being in the NBA Finals, and have been in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals.
Point guards and centers are arguably the two most important positions in the NBA. The Bulls already have Noah, so the Rose-for-Howard talk is as hypothetical as it gets, but it would be one the Bulls would be foolish not to consider hard.
Kevin Durant: Durant is another young superstar in the NBA and he, too, was an MVP candidate in just his third season in the NBA.
Durant is a better pure scorer than Rose, without a doubt, but Durant doesn't play much defense and when you get down to it, does he really make the teammates around him better?
Durant averages 2.8 assists per game, compared to Rose's 8.2. Both plays shoot the ball nearly the same, as well, with Durant a slight advantage in field-goal percentage and Rose a slight advantage in three-point percentage.
Rose and Durant are the future of the NBA, but if the Bulls would consider hard at trading Rose for anyone, it would be a tie between Durant and James.
Blake Griffin: Griffin has been the darling of the NBA, averaging 22.8 points and 12.6 rebounds per game in his rookie season.
Griffin was the first rookie selected into the All-Star game by the coaches since Tim Duncan in 1998. He's pretty darn good.
His team is anything but good, though. The LA Clippers are 21-37; despite Griffin's dominance, the Clippers are still one of the bottom-feeders in the NBA.
Until Griffin improves his jump-shot and shows something in the playoffs, he isn't in the conversation with Rose. But going off his upside, it certainly makes him an honorable mention.
Final notes: It's fun to think about what could be, in terms of trades. Remember, these are just hypothedical ideas.
Would you trade Rose for any of those players? Was there a player left out from this list?