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Derrick Rose Has ROY Competition

Derrick Rose has been phenomenal so far in 2008-09. He has surpassed all expectations for a rookie point guard. It is, after all, the most difficult thing for a rookie to do, to come in and run a team fresh from college. His averages of 16.7-3.5-6.3 are essentially the new gold standard for rookie point guards.

And the basketball world has taken notice. In fact, when mid-season award articles came out, Rose was a near unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year. Many, including his own coach Vinny Del Negro, went as far as to say Rose already had the award locked up, he had done such a good job.

Well, despite the glowing introduction, I have to contend that Rose does not have the Rookie of the Year trophy locked up, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, he has been phenomenal. Yes, he has surpassed expectations. Yes, he is the new standard for rookie point guards in today’s game. But a lock for the trophy just 50 games into the season he is not.

The NBA season is a long one, 82 grueling games filled with streaks, injuries, and roster movement. To suggest that someone has an award locked up roughly 60% of the way into the year is absurd (unless you’re Kevin Durant circa 2007-08, when he had the award wrapped up the day Greg Oden went down, but I digress). We knew this draft class was a deep one, but the general consensus was that it may be short on stars. Apparently, we were wrong. When privately researching for my own meaningless first half ROY choice, I fell upon a startling realization – not only is the ROY race tighter than even I thought, but this draft class may produce several stars yet.

So let me explain my argument in more certain terms: I love Derrick Rose. At Hoops Addict, I championed for him to be the #1 pick in the draft. I thoroughly enjoy watching him play, and I think we can already consider him one of the elite point guards in the league. He is, at this point, the Rookie of the Year. The numbers I stated above come in 37 minutes a game, and he scores at an efficient 46.5% clip. He is a deadly free throw shooter and a good (not great, yet) defender, and limits his mistakes to the tune of just 2.8 turnovers per game (a respectable 33rd in the league with a 2.40 assist-to-turnover ratio).

Still, I have trouble repeating my controversial “early-lock” from last season. I think I’ve made it clear by now that it’s nothing against D-Rose.

For one, you simply can’t ignore raw statistics. Yes, OJ Mayo is fairly selfish and shot happy, and he plays on a team built perfectly for a player to just go out and ‘get his,’ but Mayo has done all of that efficiently. His 15.81 PER is above league average, 11th among rookies, and 0.29 higher than Rose’s. 19.4 points a night is a wild total for a rookie, and his percentages of 44.6-38.3-87.6 are superior to even my own grand expectations for Ovinton. But Mayo isn’t the Rookie of the Year, he isn’t even 1B. He can’t be dismissed as he has been, but he’s not the favorite.

Neither is Michael Beasley (13.4 and 5.5 off the bench for a surprisingly good Heat team). Neither is Rudy Fernandez (10.2 a night and a 39.3% 3-point mark). The same goes for Eric Gordon (14.3PPG, 37.6% from downtown), Marc Gasol (11.3 and 7.1), Greg Oden (8.8 and 7.2 with 1.0 block) and Brook Lopez (11.8 and 7.9).

The second runner-up would be Kevin Love (it is OJ Mayo, in the meantime) if he got to play more than half a game. Love’s averages of 9.1 and 8.5 are out of this world for a rookie playing 23.1 minutes a night. As it is, his PER is third among rookies (behind Oden and Marreese Speights) at 17.34, his rebounding rate is 4th in the entire NBA, and he has the highest offensive rebounding rate in the league. Think about that for a second. This atypical big man has waxed glass better than nearly every other player in the NBA. How he is playing so little is mind boggling, and I am really looking forward to Love improving down the stretch and emerging as a dark-horse ROY candidate.

But the real reason Rose isn’t the sure-fire Rookie of the Year is Russell Westbrook. Not to get hung up on one stat, but Russel’s PER is 16.39 (5th among rookies and nearly a full point higher than Rose’s). He’s averaging 15 points and 5 assists, playing good-to-great defense, and showing he is already one of the best players in the league at getting to the line. More importantly, he is leading a suddenly on-the-rise team, and he has improved more from game 1 to game 50 than any other rookie this year. Sure, he doesn’t shoot that efficiently and he turns the ball over more than Rose, but he scores in the most efficient manner you can (free-throws) and gets steals more than any rookie save for Mario Chalmers.

People questioned the selection at 4th in the draft. His two years at UCLA did not indicate he would be a top-level player in the NBA, let alone right away. But he is. He improves each game and is suddenly cornerstone 1-B on a team with a very bright future.

Derrick Rose is absolutely the front runner for Rookie of the Year right now, but it’s a long season, and I get the feeling Russell Westbrook has just started to make this a race.

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2 Responses to “Derrick Rose Has ROY Competition”

  1. A Moura Says:

    I completely agree with your points in this piece. Rose is a beast, and being the focal “point” of opposing defences every night is a tough task for any rook. But this years class is so deep, and having Love on my fantasy roster, I know how crazily effecient he is. Theres probably like 6 different guys who have a legit shot at it, so its not locked up by any means. BTW, Westbrook or Alexander should have been voted into the Dunk contest!

  2. Blake Murphy Says:

    I would have loved to ‘SeeJoeDunk’ (I even had the thought that he may try to dunk running backwards). The reality is he’s in a small market and doesn’t get run, so how would people know to vote for him? Westy…well, you can’t have two undersized dunkers, I guess.

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