by Quinn Peterson

For whatever reason, three is a funny number. A special number.

While Derrick Rose rocks number “1,” and comes in at No. 12 on the SLAMonline Top 50, this will be his third year in the L. And as the saying goes, “The third time’s the charm.”

When you do something the first time, you’re just feeling things out, getting accustomed to them. By the second time, you’ve begun to make adjustments. But by the third time, yDerrick Roseou develop a sense of comfort, making a few minor tweaks to ensure that a fine-tuned product runs as smoothly as possible.

That’s where DRose is right now.

After an accolade-filled career at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, and an epic year at Memphis (vacated or not, we all saw what happened), Rose was taken by the Bulls with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, and officially became the Prince of the Chi.

The dilemma of attaining great success is that it breeds even greater expectations. It births a hype that, many times, can never be lived up to. Thus far however, Pooh has met — or exceeded — much, if not all, of that hype. We’ve seen players grow complacent and conceited, and never progress as once predicted.

But unlike some of his peers and predecessors, Rose’s work ethic has him in position to become the best point guard in the League. He may not be there yet, but given the improvements he’s made already, the title really isn’t that far-fetched.

His inaugural season was a successful one to say the least, even winning the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend. Playing 81 games — and starting 80 — Rose averaged 16.8 points (second among all rookies) and 6.3 assists (first among all rookies), earning All-Rookie First Team and ROY honors.

Come playoff time, on the big time stage against The League OGs (Boston), he took his game to new heights, including that memorable Game 1 in which he went off for 36. He raised his scoring to just over 19 points per game, while dishing out 6.4 assists and pulling down 6.3 boards. Despite losing the series, they pushed the then-defending champs to Game 7, and made a statement that was heard throughout the League.

Last year, with Ben Gordon gone and no real go-to scoring option, he would again have to step his game up. And he did, to the tune of 20.8 points per game. His assists would hold steady at just about six a game. In the Playoffs he again turned his game up another notch, averaging 26 and 7 dimes. Even LeBron James would struggle to keep young Rose in front.

En route, he gave us one of the illest dunks of the season, baptizing Goran Dragic. More importantly, he started to show increasing confidence in his mid-range jumper. That had been the knock on him since he came into the League. He could beat anybody off the dribble, but “he can’t shoot”.

Well last year, starting from day one, he addressed the issue, showing gradual, steady improvement. Knocking it down coming off the pick and roll, pulling up or going one on one. He wasn’t Sam Cassell, but it was coming along.

This year, coming off an impressive run with Team USA, expect more of the same. In Turkey and on tour with the national team, he showed off his jumper and a floater with seemingly unlimited range.

If his jumper continues to improve the way in the way it has, he’ll literally be unguardable. Step up, and he blows by you. Sag, and he drops you off. It’s that simple.

He has as much room for “promotion” as anyone else on this list. Already, confidence has begun to reign supreme. The once soft-spoken PG has begun to come out of his shell.

With (virtually) a new team (certainly the best he’s had since coming to the L), new coach and even a brand new signature shoe, the third time is definitely looking like the charm for Derrick Rose.

Ray AllenCelticsSG5036109
Gilbert ArenasWizardsSG493498
Lamar OdomLakersPF48331410
John WallWizardsPG47NR13NR
OJ MayoGrizzliesSG4646812
Al HorfordHawksC45NR6NR
Jason KiddMavsPG44451210
Joakim NoahBullsC43NR5NR
LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF42391312
David WestHornetsPF4131128
Monta EllisWarriorsSG40NR7NR
Andrew BogutBucksC39NR4NR
Yao MingRocketsC38NR3NR
Brandon JenningsBucksPG37NR11NR
Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF36NR11NR
Stephen CurryWarriorsPG35NR10NR
David LeeWarriorsPF34NR10NR
Brook LopezNetsC33NR2NR
Gerald WallaceBobcatsSF32NR7NR
Manu GinobiliSpursSG312967
Tony ParkerSpursPG301593
Kevin GarnettCelticsPF291393
Rudy GayGrizzliesSF284469
Josh SmithHawksPF2740813
Andre Iguodala76ersSG262656
Al JeffersonJazzPF252377
Russell WestbrookThunderPG24NR8NR
Chauncey BillupsNuggetsPG231975
Tyreke EvansKingsPG22NR6NR
Danny GrangerPacersSF212155
Carlos BoozerBullsPF203269
Paul PierceCelticsSF191744
Joe JohnsonHawksSG182044
Rajon RondoCelticsPG172758
Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF161656
Steve NashSunsPG152246
Tim DuncanSpursPF14641
Chris BoshHeatPF131334
Derrick RoseBullsPG121834

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.