- Chris Palmer, ESPN the Magazine
The first round is almost in the books, and we're ready to hand out grades to five superstars who helped guide their teams to series victories. But while these stars may be keys to getting their teams to the Finals, their performances were far from perfect. We grade their efforts and break down the adjustments they need to make in order to carry their respective teams past the conference semifinals.
Offense: Rose shot poorly, but that was largely a function of having to go on long shooting binges when the Bulls at times struggled to find offense from their frontcourt (Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah all shot below their season averages). Despite constant double-teams, he still managed to consistently get to the rim and get fouled. His 12 free throw attempts per game mark the second highest average in the playoffs and lead all guards. He did an admirable job managing the game -- no easy task in a physical series -- and would have handed out more than his 6.2 assists per game had his teammates shot better. But most importantly, Rose delivered in the clutch, particularly his game-winning drive in Game 3 to put the Bulls up 3-0. Grade: B+
Defense: His hands were extremely active in the passing lanes and when offensive players showed him the ball. He leads the playoffs with 2.6 steals per game. Rose helped hold Darren Collison to single digits in four out of the five games, and frustrated him with aggressive contests all series. Grade: A-
Adjustment for Round 2: Sure, Rose drew max attention when he had the ball, but he's got to shoot it better from the perimeter. He shot a paltry 21 percent from behind the arc, which allowed defenders to play off of him, making it harder for him to get into the lane and take a quality shot. Successfully drilling the 3 or his 20-foot spot-ups early in the series will open up driving lanes which he can use to exploit the Atlanta Hawks' so-so defenders. Against the Hawks, Rose will also need to take better care of the basketball (3.8 turnovers per game in the first round) as he had a tendency early in the series to be a bit sloppy with his ball security in transition.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss