Commentary

Bullish on Rose

Compared to Russell Westbrook and John Wall, Rose is the most athletic point guard

Originally Published: October 26, 2011
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Derrick RoseMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose's body control and leaping ability puts him above the rest.

What do the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards have in common? They all boast athletic, scoring point guards. Indeed, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall are three of the most compelling athletes ever at the point guard position. All three were born within 23 months of each other, making this a golden age of athletic point guards.

With an MVP award on his résumé, Rose is the most accomplished of the three, but Westbrook and Wall's athletic ability leaves the door open for them to one day match Rose's honor. Much of their success and productivity hinges on their physical ability. But which one is the best athlete? On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, here's how I rated them.


Leaping ability

The ability to glide through the air for the spectacular play is the skill most people readily identify with athleticism. Rose is a power leaper who explodes off the floor with velocity. He might have the highest vertical leap, but he's also the most one-dimensional leaper of the three, preferring to finish at the rim after taking off from two legs. While it makes for great highlights, it can somewhat hinder his ability around the basket -- particularly when driving down the lane -- because it allows a helping big man an extra half second to recover. Evidence: Rose led the NBA in shots blocked last season.

Westbrook is as close to a perfect leaper as there is. He owns a high vertical leap, the ability to take off from far out and his versatility in jumping effectively off of one foot or two make him the complete package. Westbrook was third in the league among guards in dunks (52) and had almost as many as Rose and Wall combined (58).

Russell Westbrook
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesRussell Westbrook could use some more muscle to ward off physical defenders.

The Thunder point guard also has the unique ability to create a late burst with his last two steps -- after he picks up his dribble -- allowing him to essentially accelerate in the air, rendering most help defense useless. Westbrook's long arms also allow him to time follow-up dunks while taking off from outside the charge circle.

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine