Derrick Rose was a sensational point guard in his prime. The young man could not be defended by one or even two defenders, and he has the entire superstar package including box-office attraction and intangibles. That is why Rose is one of the most popular players in NBA history.
But injuries cut short what could have been an all-time great career. Had Derrick Rose never sustained the severe injuries he had, we would be looking at a top-3 point guard of all-time, and here are the 5 reasons why.
There is no question that outside of Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose was the most explosive point guard in NBA history. Rose was simply unguardable when he got ahead of steam because he was quicker and stronger than any point guard in the league. Rose stood 6'2" and weighed 200 lbs, but he played bigger than he really was.
The former MVP, had he stayed healthy, would still be the best athlete at the point guard position today. Rose's game was built off athleticism and that's why when he had his unfortunate injuries, his game suffered tremendously. If Rose had stayed healthy and not suffered any major injuries, Rose would have been the best athlete at the point guard position and he would have used that to dominate the game in every way including defensively.
4. Scoring Ability
Derrick Rose was incredibly athletic, but he was a natural offensive superstar. Rose hit the ground running in his rookie season by averaging 16.8 PPG and winning Rookie of the Year, and this jumped to 20.8 PPG in his second season. In his MVP season, Rose averaged 25.0 PPG on 44.5% shooting from the field. Rose was automatic from the line, drilling 85.8% of his free throws and also 33.2% from three.
His MVP season was only his third NBA season, and Rose was developing a very deadly outside shot. He would average 21.8 PPG the following season but he only played 39 games before tearing his ACL. He has not averaged 20 PPG since. Rose would have kept his scoring average around 25 PPG over the rest of his career and that would have made him one of the 3 greatest point guards ever.
When people think of prime Derrick Rose, they think of off-the-charts athleticism and scoring ability. But Rose was an excellent playmaker, mainly because defenses were geared to stop him every night. Rose was very unselfish even though he was a score-first point guard. His ability to get to the rim at any time forced double and triple teams every game, which opened up the game for his teammates.
His growth as a playmaker was special to watch. Rose averaged 6.3 APG in his rookie season, 6.0 APG in his second season, but this jumped to 7.7 APG in his MVP season. Rose was unstoppable on offense but his passing was another reason he was the best player in the league that year. Rose had another jump in his 4th season to 7.9 APG, but injuries cut that short. If Rose kept healthy, he would have been a double-double machine which would have ranked him as a top-3 point guard behind the likes of Magic Johnson.
Derrick Rose was showing leadership when he was very young. As a 20 and 21-year old, he led the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs during his first 2 seasons with 41-41 records. His MVP season was spectacular as he was the best player on a team that finished 1st in the Eastern Conference with a 62-20 record. The fact that a 22-year old phenom could have the best record in the NBA as a 6'2" point guard was special, and there is no doubt he would have continued that streak.
Rose had an offensive impact on games, but his mental intangibles were extraordinary. He carried the Chicago Bulls franchise on his back when the city was looking for their next hero after Michael Jordan and made the Eastern Conference Finals in his MVP season. Rose was special to watch and there is no doubt the Bulls would have been a threat to the NBA Finals every season with Rose healthy. With natural leadership in his bones, Rose would have found playoff success which would have earned him a top-3 ranking all-time.
1. Clutch Performer
Derrick Rose was a special athlete and scorer who impacted the game as a superstar point guard. But we have seen many superstars come and go who simply don't have what it takes to get the job done in critical moments. Derrick Rose did not have that issue. Rose was extremely confident in his abilities and loved taking the biggest shots of the game. He was the most athletic guard on the floor at all times and that means he could get any shot off that he wanted.
Rose's game-winner against the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night in 2011 was shocking to see. Sharing the court with the likes of NBA champion Kobe Bryant, Rose drove to the basket and made a tough shot over Pau Gasol to win the game at Staples. Rose's game-winner against the Cavaliers in the 2015 Playoffs was also special to see, and he had a knack for making big plays.
Rose had the scoring ability, belief, and superstar intangibles to perform in the biggest games and that would have made him one of the greatest point guards to have ever played.