Top 50: Derrick Rose, no. 23

by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10

Some people never change. Derrick Rose is one of them.

Yes, Derrick has always cried easily. And yeah, he cried in Chicago at the launch of his third signature shoe this summer.

He’s extremely close to his mom and brothers.

His drive, explosiveness and athleticism are second to none in the League.

Yes, Rose (still) has a sweet tooth. He has since managed to avoid diving on to sharp objects after he ate the most famous apple in Chicago sports history, but according to the directors of Rose’s incredibly successful internet docu #TheReturn, yes, Derrick Rose still just hoops, chills and eats mad candy.

He’s not the loudest voice in the locker room, but he earns respect by being a “giver” on the court—if you put guys around him who can play, he’ll make them better.

Just ask Ben Gordon, who after one season playing alongside Rose, netted a Top-50 spot and $58 million contract from Detroit the following summer.

He made Joakim Noah look like a top-three center and an All-Star. No really, I’m dead ass

And while he struggled to stay healthy last season, Rose has led a painfully average Chicago squad to the NBA’s best record over the past two seasons. He’s added new elements to his game each season—most notably, becoming a consistent perimeter threat.

DRose has physically overwhelmed opponents at every level, and he wants the ball in a tough game with a minute to go. His quickness and speed are the best in basketball. He’s a dude who achieved nearly every basketball accolade before he turned 23.

Whether he’ll bring the Larry O’Brien back to the Chi is yet to be determined, but his immediate future presents more pressing questions.

Can you rank Derrick ahead of a player like Josh Smith, who’s perfectly healthy entering the ’12-13 season? Considering that Rose’s unlikely to return ’til after All-Star, is a top-25 spot blasphemy?

Yes and no.

Yes, because Derrick is easily deserving of being in the MVP conversation every season, when healthy. And no, because we have no clue how DRose will play when he’s back on the court—an ACL tear is serious business for a player, especially one as incomparably athletic as Derrick.

Everything is up in the air, but one thing’s for sure: He is working harder than ever to come back strong.

He may display an improved jumper. He may arm himself with a stronger core and better understanding of his body. He may just be even more focused.

Every season, you complained about how DRose ranked too high in the Top 50. And every season he outplayed his ranking. You laughed when he said he’d be MVP. And then he won it. After three seasons in the L, Derrick found his way into the top-five.

While I personally ranked Rose much worse this season, here Derrick Rose is at No. 23. It’s oddly fitting, because you can’t help but compare the apathy surrounding the Bulls’ season to when No. 23 left the Bulls in the mid-’90s.

Derrick Rose doesn’t need a top-five ranking. He doesn’t need another accolade. He turned 24 years old last week, and the only thing he hasn’t achieved is an NBA Championship.

If you still don’t believe in Derrick Rose, just listen to someone who’s known him since his high school days.

“In the next 15 years, when they’re talking about the best of the best, they’ll be mentioning him,” John Calipari told me over the phone during his DRose’s rookie season. “In 15 years, he’ll be thought of as one of the greats.”

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3
27 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 5
26 Andre Iguodala Nuggets SG 5
25 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 4
24 Josh Smith Hawks PF 7
23 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 8

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.