ESPN’s Nick Friedell wrote an article this afternoon detailing the relationship between Chicago’s Derrick Rose and the Portland Trailblazers young point guard phenom Damian Lillard. Lillard and Rose share much in common – for one, they’re both label mates on Adidas and each have their own signature shoe brand. As well as, Rose and Lillard only being a year and three months apart in age (25 and 24, respectively), both have won Rookie of the Year, and of course they both play the same position.
In 2012-13, Lillard burst on to the NBA scene as an unknown out of small Weber State University, and now entering the 2014-15 season Lillard’s already made an All-Star team and led the upstart Trail Blazers to the second round of the playoffs (both of which accomplished last season). But perhaps most impressive of all is that in two seasons as a professional, Lillard has yet to miss a game.
Of course, in the two years Lillard has been taking the NBA by storm, draining 3s from any and everywhere similarly to Golden State’s Stephen Curry – Rose has only played a total of ten games during Lillard’s NBA career. Rose and Lillard have met head-to-head one time, but on that fateful night in Portland, Oregon on Nov. 22, Derrick Rose torn his meniscus in his left knee forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
Lillard and Rose are not inextricably linked as a result of Rose’s injury in Portland, but they’re paralleled in Friedell’s piece due to their Team USA commitments as both players still are vying for a roster spot loaded at the point guard position. Unequivocally, the NBA has become a point guard league; it’s the league’s deepest position by a considerable stretch. Which brings us to the question: does Derrick Rose still rank among top point guards in the NBA?
Attempting to look at what Derrick could have accomplished these past two seasons is dramatically selling what every other point guard did do for their teams short. Although, it doesn’t make Rose any less indispensable. Last season, the Bulls as a team had the third worst offensive efficiency rating according to John Hollinger at ESPN, and were dead last in points per game. The year before that in 2012-13, the season Chicago geared up for knowing it’d be without Rose throughout, the Bulls were sixth worst in offensive efficiency, and second to last in points per game.
With Rose, Chicago’s a middle-of-the-pack offensive team, which is where they need to be if they intend to compete for a championship. But over the past four seasons, Chris Paul has had the highest player efficiency rating (PER) among point guards, and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook finished second every one of those season except 2011-12 when Rose finished second.
Even in Rose’s MVP season in 2010-11, Westbrook put up more rebounds, assists, steals, double-doubles, and triple-doubles than Rose. As for Paul, he’s been by pretty much all metrics and standards the best defensive point guard in the league, the best passer, as efficient a shooter at the position from the field, and he doesn’t dominate the ball like Westbrook or turn it over as much. Rose was in the Paul-Westbrook echelon before his injuries, and no one has entered since.
The closest to the upper echelon of Paul and Westbrook is a tier just below with Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, and where Rose realistically should land this upcoming season. Curry’s shot over 600 3-point attempts (also led the league in made 3-pointers) each of the last two seasons, but he’s 45.3 and 42.4 percent respectively, which is plain unconscious. Curry upped his assist numbers last season, and he’s maintained a respectable steals throughout his career, but his downfall is turning the ball over.
Meanwhile, Parker just won an NBA title, and his numbers per 36 minutes for his career are at about 19 points, 6.5 assists, a steal a game, and shooting about 50 percent from the field. Not to mention, his assist-to-turnover ratio (something Paul really excels at and separates himself) has been top ten among point guards two of the past three seasons.
So, if we were to form a top five point guard ranking right now it’d look like: Paul, Westbrook, Curry, Parker, and Rose. Lillard could easily replace Rose if he puts up another season like his last two, also John Wall, Rajon Rando, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving are all right in the mix for All-NBA status next season. But as of now, the rest of the pack is on the outside looking in at Rose because any indication of a healthy Rose this season means he’s still in an elite category.
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