Rose or Westbrook?
ROSE STILL MORE POLISHED THAN WESTBROOK
It is obviously not a fair fight.
Who would I rather take as my point guard right now, today, if I were starting a team -- Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook? With Rose presumably laboring through his first month of rehab on a surgically repaired knee and Westbrook shining ever so brightly on the biggest stage in the sport, it takes the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately concept to a whole new level.
But stepping back ever so slightly brings the proper perspective, and despite Westbrook's brilliance this season (illustrated particularly in Game 1 of the NBA Finals), I take Rose.
At his best -- and there is no modern medical reason to believe he will not return to form -- Rose is the quintessential point guard. Often pigeon-holed as a creator, albeit perhaps the best in the game, not enough credit is given to his ability to distribute the ball and make his teammates better.
Juggling both his abilities and his conscience for the first few years of his career, often passing too much and at other times forcing his shot when the team needed it, Rose's leadership and the full complement of his wondrous abilities blossomed during his MVP season of 2010-11.
He was the best player in basketball, and one injury-riddled season does not suddenly knock him down a peg until we see him at full strength again.
Even in Game 1 on Monday, Westbrook seemed frenzied early and hit just one of five shots in the first quarter. And although he has improved greatly in his shot selection from last season, he is still maturing as both a person and a player.
As a passer, yes, Westbrook is a top-flight talent, but he also has in Kevin Durant a target significantly more versatile and talented than any player on the Bulls. And as a defender, Rose is still superior.
But beyond the nuts and bolts is just a feeling I have, an intangible and yet very real vibe I get from Rose as a more mature, more polished professional.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
ROSE IS GREAT, BUT INJURY GIVES EDGE TO WESTBROOK
There is no wrong answer, but I think Russell Westbrook is showing his true value as a dynamic, durable and slightly unpredictable combo guard. Derrick Rose and Westbrook share a lot of the same attributes, but I think a lot of teams would go for Westbrook over Rose right now. Since this is a theoretical argument based on real-life situations, Rose's injury has to factor into the equation.
Rose should not be classified as "injury-prone" because he had missed only a handful of games in his life up until the lockout season. But he will have to work through his knee injury over the next year. Westbrook, on the other hand, has never missed a game in high school, college or the NBA.
Their stats are pretty similar -- Rose is just ahead of Westbrook in John Hollinger's PER list -- though I'm sure Rose would love to have Kevin Durant as a teammate. Might make things a little easier to roll with the leading scorer in the NBA instead of, say, Carlos Boozer, right?
While Rose won the MVP award in his third season and has to carry the weight of not only a franchise, but a city, on his shoulders, Westbrook has been allowed to improve in the shadow of Durant. His scoring numbers and shooting percentage have increased every season. He is definitely on the rise.
I always dig it when Rose shows emotion, because it doesn't feel contrived. His stoic demeanor masks an unyielding competitive spirit. But Westbrook has a little more edge. He plays angrier. If I'm building a team, I want a guy who plays with a mean streak, even if it's a little off-putting to his teammates. It hasn't hurt Kobe Bryant in the long run.
If I'm the Bulls, I wouldn't trade Rose for anyone in the league. But if I'm everybody else, I'd strongly consider Westbrook.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.