So there, I said it. Derrick Rose is the greatest point guard in the game since Magic Johnson, the Lakers' 5-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer. And with 25 points per game and only a few years under his belt it's fair to say that this statement is taking a risk and, OK...yes, I'm talking largely in future tense.
I'm like a lot of Bulls fans who, at the season's tip-off, thought this team was at least a year away and that Derrick Rose was a probable All-Star yet not quite an MVP. So, I am pleasantly surprised if not totally ecstatic about where the Bulls are with Rose's impact. But it just goes to show what can happen in one season when you have new coach, different attitude, some team chemistry and a few top flight players like Boozer and Noah. That said, the lynchpin, in my mind -what seals the deal--is having one far-reaching and influential player, the all around guru, a world class phenomenon like Derrick Rose.
Certainly, there's a lot of room for argument here. I'm certain that Pistons fans, Spurs fans, and those who love to watch Steve Nash dazzle us on and off the court for the Phoenix Suns, both as a point guard extraordinaire and NBA ambassador, would take issue with this idea that Rose is the second best one-guard of all time. But you can rest assured that my assertion isn't a jab at other teams. Nor is it that I have any disrespect for greats like Jason Kidd, or the Utah Jazz gunner John Stockton.
What D-Rose has is a Jordanesque take-it-to-the-basket ethic matched with all-star skills of an MVP shooting guard, plus the works of the perimeter man with ambidextrous skill and power in the paint. The former Rookie of the Year sets the NBA ablaze almost nightly with performances like his 36 points last night against Indiana, following 39 on Saturday and a couple of 42-point performances in the last months of the season. Interesting too that Rose has banged down 75 points in the last two games.
Fans might call Rose the natural heir of Jordan, in the House that Michael Built, and (as I would put it) the House Rose Rebuilt. But there's more to it than that. I'm old. Old enough to remember Magic killing it for the Lakers and old enough to have watched Joe Dumars with the Pistons and Moe Cheeks with the 76ers do wonders for their championship teams.
To me the point guard role was never one-dimensional, rather the most physical and demanding of basketball positions, even in the age of Shaq's predictable dunking.
It was never just about passing and it was never about just defend the perimeter or occasionally steal the ball. I think of the point guard as not only the key playmaker and distributor of the basketball, but also the one who (at best) brings the explosive play, plus versatility against a good defensive game. Not to mention it's the position where creativity and great athleticism take hold to change the game "down the stretch" in pivotal moments. Rose possesses and displays all of the above.
Rose is clearly different from what Stockton was as a point guard. Stockton was an unstoppable 3-point machine and impeccable free throw shoe-in who held a steady hand. His precision and cool head helped counterbalance Karl Malone's prevailing inside game for the Jazz in the 1990's, and Stockton added a different dimension to the Jazz in tandem with their forwards. As a result Utah held a dominance in the West with a lethal game all across the floor, and it was one that only Jordan and the Bulls could top. One could argue that only the Spurs, maybe the Lakers from 2003 on have had a similar, precise calibration since the heyday of the Utah Jazz.
A key factor, I think -and I'm no basketball expert--is where Rose is now in only his third season and the fact that barring major injury, he's only gonna get better.
Sure, Rose may not yet have the court vision and the numbers of a Hall of Famer. But it is rare that the best athlete on the floor is a Chicago Bulls point guard. Still Rose's intangible skills are better than Michael Jordan's were at this stage of his career.
The weeks ahead will tell us whether D-Rose has the leadership and whether the Bulls have the stamina to make it all the way to the NBA Finals and win it. Whether or not the Bulls do win their 7th title this year, I think we'll be talking about D-Rose in this light as a future Hall of Fame point guard for years to come.
Just a hunch, but I think I'm right on this one.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and dispenses thoughts throughout the day on Twitter via @MySportsComplex, noting that hunches are often underrated.