Is Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls really The Answer?
The more common comparison in Chicago these days is whether Rose; the electric do-everything guard is a worthy successor of Michael Jordan, whose statue stands outside the United Center in tribute to the six NBA championships he brought to the city.
And Rose, for all the promise he's shown as the NBA's youngest ever MVP and for continuing his regular season dominance in the post season obviously has a long way to go on that front.
But in considering the discussion about the Bulls', um, one-dimensional offensive approach maybe the proper comparison isn't a former Bulls great but the last shoot-first small man to win the league's MVP and take his team to the NBA Finals.
That of course would be Allen Iverson, The Answer, who was David to the NBA's Goliath's a decade ago, although with a seemingly endless number of stones for his sling shot.
Think Rose (or the Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westrbook) is shot happy?
Rose is Steve Nash compared to Iverson. In the 76ers 23-game playoff run that year; ending with their five-and-out defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers Iverson chucked up 661 shots, or only 28.7 shots a game.
That he made just 38.9 per cent of them even created a new argument for why having one guy shoot all the time - whether he made shots or not - was a good thing; as we learned that Iverson's penetration opened up lanes that gave the 76ers better opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. Okay then.
Rose is hardly shy - and in fact his usage rate (the percentage of a team's plays used by a player when they're on the floor) of 36.7 through the Bulls 10 playoff games this season is almost identical to Iverson's 36.8 during Philly's run in 2001.
But Rose is shooting 24 times a game and connecting at a 41-per-cent clip; although he's doing it in about six fewer minutes. Iverson was a like a high school player who never came out of the game in 2001 as he averaged a ridiculous 46.2 minutes a night.
There are some differences between the two situations, the biggest perhaps that Iverson lifted what was a pretty ordinary 76ers squad to about as high as it conceivably reach. After Iverson the next most effective offensive player was the under-rated Aaron McKie - a very solid pro, but hardly an all-star candidate. Iverson's ball dominance was by necessity and the 76ers relative success came at the expense of a weak Eastern Conference in the post-Jordan NBA.
The Bulls, by comparison, are a juggernaut, with Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer as legitimate second options, Joakim Noah as an all-purpose disruptor and some useful frontcourt depth, along with proven perimeter shooters to spread the floor for Rose.
The Bulls 62-20 regular season was in an Eastern Conference that ran five teams deep. Making it to the Finals will require Chicago to get through either Boston's Big Three or Miami's Big Three; each of which are a notch above the Milwaukee Bucks' Big Three ( Glenn Robinson, Sam Casell and yes, that Ray Allen).
How far Rose can take the Bulls remains to be seen; but if he does take thems to the Finals for the first time since Jordan in 1998 he will get there along a path blazed by Iverson.
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