James and the Heat spoiled the Bulls' chances of a trip to the NBA Finals the past two out of three seasons. To be fair, Rose's ACL injury was partly to blame. No one really knows how both teams would have fared if the Bulls star was healthy.
Now, Rose is back and the playing field is even, all things considered.
That said, here are three reasons why Derrick Rose, not LeBron James, is best poised to win another MVP trophy for the 2013-2014 NBA season:
Chicago Bulls star is really 'explosive'
Rose, through six preseason games, has shown no signs of a torn ACL. And I'd even dare say he appears to be new and improved.
By his own admission, the Bulls point guard recently said (via ESPN), "I think I'm way more explosive now. Like getting to the rim. I think I can take contact a little bit better. And as far as jumping-wise, I think I can jump even higher."
I agree with every word, right down to the syllables, especially after watching the Bulls trounce the Milwaukee Bucks 105-84 in Monday's preseason game. Rose attacked the rim at will and scored 24 points in just 27 minutes.
The Bulls improved their preseason record to 7-0 in Thursday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rose scored 24 points in 35 minutes of play.
Essentially, D-Rose is in a class by himself in his ability to break down opposing players and move effortlessly through pick-and-roll plays. Moreover, his strength, speed and athleticism are challenges to defenders who struggle to contain him in transition.
It was this same level of play that earned Derrick Rose the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award in the 2010-2011 season, while denying LeBron James the honors.
History says otherwise
If past performance predicts future results, the odds are low in LeBron James winning a third consecutive regular-season MVP Award.
According to NBA.com, the last player to earn three in a row was Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics (1983-1986). Before that, Wilt Chamberlain (1965-1998, Philadelphia 76ers) and Bill Russell (1960-1963, Boston Celtics) earned three consecutive trophies.
Like LeBron, several other players have back-to-back MVP Awards, but getting that third one has proven to be elusive over several decades.
And, perhaps, here's the strongest argument against James hitting the milestone this season -- and it has nothing to do with Derrick Rose. Not even the great Michael Jordan has an MVP three-peat on his basketball resume.
Everyone loves a good comeback story
Finally, a large case in favor of D-Rose earning the MVP and denying the Miami Heat another trip to the finals has to do with the hype around his return.
Sports fans have a way of rooting for the underdog. However, at the rate Rose is playing in preseason games, it's not really an open and shut case as to who is the better baller. What's more, statistics don't tell the entire story.
Case in point: The year that Rose won the MVP, his numbers trailed LeBron James. However, a strong contingency of fans -- and media establishment -- cheered his every move and even compared the enthusiasm around his game to that of being the "next" Michael Jordan.
Then, James logged a .541 Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG %), a .244 Win/Share over 48 minutes (league average is .100), 1.5 steals per 36 minutes and 7.8 trips to the line on average.
Comparatively, Rose's stats were .485, .208, 1.0 and 6.6, respectively. And on total points, James scored 2,111 to Rose's 2046.
Therefore, on paper, LBJ should have won the MVP that season, but Rose gave him a run for his money and looked good getting there. Apparently, style points were awarded to the little "big man" in Chi-Town.
Arguably, the move was great for basketball, but many pundits and fans claimed LeBron was robbed.
As far as the team is concerned, let's not forget that although Rose sat out last season and the Bulls suffered through a crippled roster, Chicago still won 45 games and wound up landing the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, the core team is back and appears to be in good health. Assuming it cheats injury this season, Chicago has numerous players who can create their own offense and make doubling Rose a moot defensive strategy.
This may be the fairytale season Chicago fans have been waiting for, something that has been missing since Air Jordan gave the city reason to be loud and proud.
Although 30 NBA GMs surveyed recently agree that LeBron James and the Miami Heat will three-peat (MVP and Finals, respectively), the fan sentiment around Derrick Rose's "Rocky"-like comeback may point to season shocker.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter and avid follower of the NBA, NFL, NCAA, PGA and tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins developments.
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- Derrick Rose
- LeBron James
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