July 27, 2011
In the eyes of most major media, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose(notes) was the toughest little dude in the NBA last season. Forced to single-handedly raise his team's terrible offense from the ranks of the league's worst into the realm of the above average, Rose was constantly charged with breaking down opposing defenses with one-on-one moves that seemingly could not be stopped. Couple that image with the Bulls owning the league's best defense and eventually the league's best record, and Rose became the youngest MVP in NBA history in 2010-11.
Among those that pay attention to advanced statistics, though, Rose was hardly the picture of perfection. Sure, better offensive players on different teams had helpers to take the pressure off, but just about any stat you could throw out painted Rose as a step or two below the offensive best. His Bulls team was certainly no worse (and probably much better offensively) than the Cleveland Cavalier messes that LeBron James(notes) put up significantly better stats on years ago, but any number easily found online (points per game, shooting efficiency, PER, Offensive Win Shares, you name it) listed several players ahead of Rose offensively.
But if you want to respect Rose above all else, check out Basketball-Reference.com's statistical rankings featuring the players who did the best work against the toughest defenses.
This isn't some list of who had the highest points per game against Boston, Chicago, et al. Rather, this is a fully vetted statistical breakdown featuring all the angles that most NBA followers, scribes and TV talking heads tend to ignore because … well, I don't know why they ignore those angles because they're fun to look up and think about. That's a post for another day.
On the other hand, kudos go out to James, Derrick Rose, who ranked in the top five vs. each type of defense (including No. 1 vs. above-average defenses), and Dirk Nowitzki, who actually ranked higher vs. above-average defenses (No. 2) than below-average ones (No. 18). And last but not least, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), Kevin Durant(notes), Devin Harris(notes) and Ramon Sessions(notes) deserve a mention for playing at an equally high level vs. each type of defense.
Ah, LeBron. Nobody likes him, but he comes out of this smelling like a rose, working his magic equally well against both great and terrible defenses. As for Kobe? Well, read the column. Then do your usual thing, Lakers fans.
And as for Rose? It's hard for a dumbbell like me to understand how Chicago's exclusion from the list of above-average teams either helped or hurt his status on this list, but this is a strong compliment. For him to play superior ball to guys like James, Kevin Durant, Bryant and Dwyane Wade(notes) against the league's best defenses says quite a bit about this little bugger -- and the MVP year he had.