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Derrick Rose at 22 years of age became the NBA’s youngest to win the Most Valuable Player Award with his dominant 2011 season. Though he showed off his skills in a way that we had never seen out of him before, much of the talk around the league is that he was undeserving of the award this year, and in fact is a bit overrated as a player.
I believe that overrated is quite a strong word. It should merely be reserved for a class of players that has one or two strong seasons but then never quite seems to live up to that potential again throughout the rest of their career. I have no doubt that Derrick Rose does not belong in this class.
Although I hate to begin an argument with statistics (because they surely do not tell the entire story of a players overall game) I will use them as a launching point.
Rose is obviously first and foremost, a scorer. Whether or not each individual fan wants their point guard to be “score-first” they will have to deal with it from the young Bulls superstar, because his reputation has become one of the toughest guards to defend across the entire league. In 2011 alone he upped his scoring from 20.8 to 25 points-per-game.
Not only is he getting to the rim more but he also increased his free throw percentage from an average 76.6% to 85.8%, making it even tougher to defend him in the paint since no coach wants to give away free points.
The biggest transition in his game came with his touch from the outside. Much of this “overrated” talk came from Rose’s struggles shooting the ball in the playoffs. Whereas that may be true, anyone who has watched basketball for a significant amount of time knows that young players are bound to struggle come playoff time when the experience just isn’t there. All of the great players went through lulls where the ball just wouldn’t go through the hoop, and rose is no different. It should be said however that this is no reason to discredit his dominant regular season (especially since the MVP award is NOT based on the postseason).
Despite his struggles, throughout the regular season, Rose increased his 3-point shooting from a terrible 26.7% to a respectable 33.2%, and can be expected to increase again next season. The percentages do not tell the whole story however, since last season he was only able to net 16 shots from behind the arc, and in 2011 hit 128.
Rose’s blocks, steals, assists, and rebounds all increased by a fairly significant margin as well over his MVP year, and yet still he is doubted.
Let’s get to what I believe is the real root of the problem here: the Chicago Bulls as a team.
Do not get me wrong, personally I enjoyed watching the Bulls play this season and do believe they are on pace to compete for years to come in the eastern conference (if only they can get a shooting guard who isn’t named Keith Bogans into the starting lineup). The fact is, nobody expected them to be the top seed in the east this year whatsoever.
This is where my word change comes into play. Overachieved is the best word for both Rose and the Bulls. Rose was forced to take over many games in the regular season and in the playoffs due to the teams struggles without him. It seemed like they just haven’t gelled all the way yet, and are a good off-season away from being a serious title contender.
I also hate to use injuries as an excuse, because we have all seen what the Dallas Mavericks have done without one of their premier players Caron Butler, however the Bulls were bitten hard by the injury bug all year long, causing them only to be able to play with their real starting lineup for a handful of games coming into the postseason.
My real gripe with many fans though can be seen in comparing Rose to one of the other young budding superstars in the league, Kevin Durant. Like Rose and the Bulls, Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder made it to the conference finals and were dominated by an older, more experienced team. My problem is that everyone seems to give Durant a pass just because he’s young and hasn’t been there before.
Every respected voice across the basketball community believes that the Thunder will soon be the kings of the Western Conference, and just need some time to get there. So why the free pass for Durant and not Rose? In fact, Durant is not only a year older than Rose, but has mostly the same team as he did last year, while Rose was forced to create chemistry between he and the Bulls new high-powered forward Carlos Boozer this season, along with a slew of other new names and a new coach, or should I say NBA Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau.
Some may say that they want to see more out of their league MVP, and I get that some people will always be unhappy no matter who is chosen. All I want to say to fans out there is, give the kid time, and watch out, because both Rose and the Bulls will be back and hungry in the 2012 season, and don’t be surprised if you see some more hardware on Rose’s mantle before it’s all said and done.