Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose didn't wince, didn't grin, didn't change his expression one tiny bit Saturday night when asked about his nonchalant proclamation last month that he should be considered a legitimate candidate this season for the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award.
He found nothing unusual about it, even if most everyone else did. Biding his time and paying his dues has never been his style.
After all, he arrived as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and went from Rookie of the Year his first season to NBA All-Star the next. So why not set his sights on being the best player in the world's best basketball league in his third year?
For him, it's the natural progression.
Maybe that's why the Chicago Bulls didn't hesitate when LeBron James went to Miami instead this summer. Maybe that's why they haven't tried as hard as they could have to trade for Carmelo Anthony.
They already have their budding superstar. And they might be better this season than anyone yet realizes.
How Rose can become an MVP contender
This past weekend, Derrick Rose told FanHouse: “Why can’t I be MVP of the league?” And this was the second time he’s posed the question within the last few weeks, so he’s clearly serious. He believes he can butt his way into the conversation for MVP.
OK, fine. There’s an argument that claims LeBron James and Dwyane Wade hurt themselves in future MVP balloting by teaming up in Miami, in the same way two nominated actors from the same film steal votes from each other at the Oscars. So let’s say we scratch them off the list. That still leaves a solid half-dozen or so players, at least, ahead of Rose on the MVP totem pole going into the 2010-11 season: Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams, and perhaps even a secondary group that includes Brandon Roy, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and Josh Smith. (Note to Spurs fans: I love Duncan. He’s back here because I’m assuming he won’t play enough to be seriously considered.)
But there are things Rose can do to be taken seriously in the MVP race. Two things, really:
1) IMPROVE CHICAGO’S OFFENSE
Only three teams scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the Bulls last season, when Chicago scored just 103.5 points per 100 possessions. The Bulls scored nearly five more points per 100 possessions the year before, meaning Chicago’s offense took a major hit with the departure of Ben Gordon to Detroit and John Salmons to the Bucks.
Is having a dominant point guard a bane to team-building?
Constructing a team is rather inexact in its science, and though team officials have grown wise to particular trends and the like over the years, there are still countless ways to approach roster construction and just as many ways to fail in creating a championship-worthy roster. Building a solid, long-term team is tough, building a contender is hard, and building a title-winner nearly impossible.
Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell offers one treatise on the subject (reflecting on Zach Harper’s similar work last week on TrueHoop), one worthy of your time and your thoughts. Blanchard wonders: is the dominant point guard, while one of the most coveted NBA pieces, almost antithetical to successful team-building?
…there’s something inherently difficult about building around these players, as each of the above players has managed to put playoff teams together with nothing but spot up shooters and duct tape.
And therein lies the problem. Because a point guard presents so much smoke and mirrors, masking teammates deficiencies, controlling tempo, and inflating statistics, it’s far too easy to get caught up in his success and prematurely go all in, overvalue your own free agents, and ignore the development of the rest of your team while still having success–just not the kind of success every team should aspire to.
Top 50: Derrick Rose, no. 12
For whatever reason, three is a funny number. A special number.
While Derrick Rose rocks number “1,” and comes in at No. 12 on the SLAMonline Top 50, this will be his third year in the L. And as the saying goes, “The third time’s the charm.”
When you do something the first time, you’re just feeling things out, getting accustomed to them. By the second time, you’ve begun to make adjustments. But by the third time, yDerrick Roseou develop a sense of comfort, making a few minor tweaks to ensure that a fine-tuned product runs as smoothly as possible.
That’s where DRose is right now.
After an accolade-filled career at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, and an epic year at Memphis (vacated or not, we all saw what happened), Rose was taken by the Bulls with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, and officially became the Prince of the Chi.
The dilemma of attaining great success is that it breeds even greater expectations. It births a hype that, many times, can never be lived up to. Thus far however, Pooh has met — or exceeded — much, if not all, of that hype. We’ve seen players grow complacent and conceited, and never progress as once predicted.
But unlike some of his peers and predecessors, Rose’s work ethic has him in position to become the best point guard in the League. He may not be there yet, but given the improvements he’s made already, the title really isn’t that far-fetched.
Bulls' chemistry experiment slow developing
Kurt Thomas is nothing if not an NBA realist. Fifteen seasons of experience don't leave much time for sugarcoating.
So when asked recently how good the Bulls can be this season, Thomas spoke in typically blunt terms.
"We're solid, but we need to improve," Thomas said. "And we hope we can jell together quickly. That doesn't always happen with every team. It's about lifting each other up through the bad times — because there will be some tough stretches every year for every team."
The Bulls should hope they're enduring some of their toughest right now.
Injuries have already plagued this team
The dreaded "I" word. Injuries. I've long said my biggest fear for this team is that virtually every important player on it carries with him above average injury risk. Even players who wouldn't seem prone to injury have had problems. Kyle Korver just missed practice with a cyst on his ankle. Taj Gibson missed time with Plantar Fasciitis, Ronnie Brewer missed time with a sore hamstring, and of course, Boozer won't be back until late November or early December.
For a normal team, a team without huge turnover, preseason injures probably wouldn't mean a whole heck of a lot. Maybe, outside of the Boozer injury, they won't mean much for the Bulls either. However, with so many new faces, the Bulls may struggle to find continuity for when the regular season starts.
Let's take a look at the injuries going forward:
Carlos Boozer: Obviously, the Boozer injury hurts the Bulls on the floor significantly. Besides being their second best player, he's also the only one on the team who brings the skills he has to the table. The Bulls made it one of their goals to play inside out, but they haven't really been able to do that in the same way without Boozer as no one else has his post game.
This calls for the Bulls to run largely different plays in preseason or have their options and effectiveness be completely different than they would in the regular season. In other words, his presence or absence is changing everything the team is doing. Even if everything else was flowing great right now, it'd be a struggle to integrate him back into the offense.
The lack of having a backup like Paul Millsap who could fill the same role as Boozer while he's out will make his injuries hurt us considerably more than they hurt the Jazz who could continue to run through the same sets with or without Boozer.