Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Seeing through Rose-colored glasses
Let's make something very clear here, right from the outset: Michael Beasley was the best player in college basketball this season. It's indisputable. Tyler Hansbrough may very well win Player of the Year, and probably deserves it: he's an upperclassman who putting up a 23-10 on an ACC team that's 36-2 heading into their Final Four matchup with Kansas on Saturday. That resume pretty much speaks for itself.
But Beasley was the best player.
Maybe Kevin Durant captured more of your imagination, but Beasley had just as good a year. And his game and body translate directly into the NBA. As I've written before, he's the most talented college power forward since Chris Webber.
And with all that being said, Derrick Rose should be the first overall selection in the upcoming draft.
Forget for a second the concerns surrounding Beasley's maturity (or lackthereof). That doesn't even factor here. And for the sake of the argument, let's throw out team needs, or roster makeup. In fact, let me rephrase my assertion:
Derrick Rose is, at least in my opinion, the #1 prospect in the upcoming draft. He's the most valuable. He's the guy you'd most want to build yor team around.
In the wake of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, two world-class point guards under the age of 24 who have spurred their franchise into serious contention, someone like Rose is as attractive as ever. Rose's potential is limitless: at 6-3, 205 lbs, he's big and has a strong, well-defined, NBA-ready body. He's an excellent rebounder for the position (4.4 a night in only 28.6 minutes per), and he can run the offense in the half-court or push the pace. He plays under control. He's a top-flight competitor who raises his game when it matters (20.5, 6, and 6 on 58 percent so far in the tourney). And most impressive of all, he might be the best athlete to ever play the position.
Think a young Jason Kidd, only with a better jumper and insane hops.
Think a young Gary Payton, only if Payton dunked on putbacks and threw down Kobe-esque reverses on fast breaks.
Think a younger Stevie Francis, but with a pure point guard's game (like the 2001 Francis mixed with CP3, that's probably the most apt comparison.)
Think a guy who can lead your team to a championship.
Not that Beasley couldn't, but as good as he is, he's not a center and he's not a gamechanger defensively. He's not a dominant shotblocker. He's not an anchor. He's not Tim Duncan. He might become the first player to average a 30-10 since Karl Malone in 1990, but what will it all mean, ultimately, if you get my drift. Meaning no disrespect.
But imagine Rose, teammed with talented forwards Durant (playing splendidly the last month) and Jeff Green with the Sonics. Picture Rose, feeding Al Jefferson in Minnesota.
(Although to be fair, a pairing of Beasley and D-Wade in MIA would also be dynamite. As would throwing B-Easy into the mix with Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, M&M, Rudy Gay, and Hakim Warrick down in Tennessee. Of course, that's taking into account roster makeup. Which we aren't doing, so let's move on.)
The Jordans and LeBrons and Kobes and Wades are few and far between; the seven footer who protects the rim, controls the boards, and funnels the offense is and will always be the most valuable commodity. But other than that, and especially with the way the game has sped up in recent years, a dominant point guard - a guy who can get into the lane at will, score 20 a night, get double digit assists, and basically run the offense to a T, like Rose will do at the next level - is the fastest way for an irrelevant team to become meaningful. Like Williams and Paul, Steve Nash took a team mired in mediocrity and made them matter. Also like Williams and Paul, his team will figure prominently in what happens over the next 2 1/2 months.
Someday soon, the NBA team Rose is on will have an important stake in the proceedings, too. Even more so than Beasley's.