Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…
DERRICK ROSE, Chicago Bulls
The end of the era was about four years ago. The funeral was held over the past week.
Once upon a time, “score-first” point guards ran the NBA. At a time when quickness became more coveted than size, and the influences of Michael Jordan (long-term) and the AND 1 Mix Tape style (short-term) took hold, men like Allen Iverson, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury and Baron Davis thrived. It’s not like the old-school point guards that purists canonize — John Stockton, Walt Frazier, Bob Cousy — didn’t have their share of explosive scoring nights. But in the score-first point guard era it was common for your “distributor” to drop 30 points on 28 shots, to force his will to get buckets even if it shut down offensive flow.
But then Steve Nash found his perfect system, and we developed a new appreciation for Jason Kidd, and Chris Paul hit the scene, Hot Sauce fell off the map, and suddenly passing the rock became cool again. For the score-first point guard, funeral services took place over the past week; the ashes spread over Turkey, China and the L.A. Clippers’ bench.
And yet, for better or worse, Derrick Rose keeps the legacy alive. Don’t let the 9.2 assists per game fool you; D-Rose is a scoring point guard who can pass, not vice versa. He briefly led the NBA in scoring this year, but before the negative Iverson comparisons developed, he ran off a string of games with double-digit assists. The fact remains: Rose’s best skill is getting to his spot to get off his shot.
How well he does that in crunch time will determine how far the Chicago Bulls advance toward a seventh (and eighth, and ninth) championship for the franchise. Last season he ranked 15th in the NBA in “clutch time” scoring and 8th in assists. This season Rose already has one clutch performance for the highlight reels, dropping 39 points on the Pistons while leading a come-from-behind victory in which the Bulls were down by 21 in the second half. Last night against the Nuggets, Rose’s step-back jumpers and acrobatic finishes at the rim in the fourth quarter propelled Chicago to another close win.
In Hubie Brown‘s perfect world, the Bulls’ point guard wouldn’t have to be its points guard, but what choice does Rose have? Things were different when Ben Gordon was in Chicago, and maybe things will be different again once Carlos Boozer can don the Bulls’ uniform, but for now Rose has to be the go-to scorer. His team needs him to be a threat to drop 35 a night, just as much as Dallas needs Dirk, as Denver needs Carmelo, as Oklahoma City needs Kevin Durant.
So rather than bemoan the fact that D-Rose is averaging 21 shot attempts per game to produce his 23.8 points per game, appreciate the talent that takes. Respect that Rose — often the shortest, always the fastest player on the court, the kid who allegedly doesn’t have a jumper — is getting buckets at a higher clip than Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans, Danny Granger, LeBron James and Brandon Roy right now.
Is Derrick Rose the next Allen Iverson? Signs may point to yes. But who said that was a bad thing?
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14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)