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Charley Rosen: Has Derrick Rose Passed Deron Williams?

Feb 10, 2011 – 11:45 AM
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Charley Rosen

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This was only one game out of 82, but during Chicago's 91-86 win Wednesday in Utah, Derrick Rose demonstrated in convincing fashion that he's a much better player than Deron Williams.

Rose had 29 points (25 in direct confrontations with Williams) on 11 of 26 shooting, while also registering seven assists and only a single turnover. He blew past D-Will on 10 occasions, usually with super-quick crossovers going either way.

Rose's combination of speed and strength, coupled with his extraordinary athleticism, was astounding. This particular parley of size and skills also greatly impacted the game on the defensive end. Indeed, Williams tallied only 11 points (5 of 13 shooting) primarily because he struggled to create operating space against Rose's earnest defense.

When Williams tried to take Rose into the pivot, the latter easily scooted around the former's seal and poked the entry pass away. Then on a 2-on-1 fast break, Rose's quickness afoot drew a charge on the surprised Williams.

Despite his domination of his opposite number, however, Rose's game is far from being flawless. He converted only two of his eight jumpers (enabling Williams to go under most of the high screens offered for Rose's use), and except for one high-flying put-back and one floater, all of Rose's buckets were successful layups -- indicating that his springer still needs some work.

Charley Rosen's Close Look

With 15 books about basketball and a longtime column at FOX Sports to his credit, Charley Rosen is bringing his talents to NBA FanHouse for a weekly look at some of the NBA's most intriguing matchups.

Feb. 1: Championship Odds for NBA Contenders
Jan 26: NBA's Most Over/Underrated
Jan. 19: Knicks Should Nix Pursuit of Melo
Jan. 12: Wall, Cousins Have Flash and Flaws
Jan. 6: Trade Makes Magic Better, Not Elite
Dec. 29: What's Wrong With the Lakers?
Of Rose's seven assists, six resulted from drive-and-kicks that generated open jumpers for his teammates. The other dime enabled Carlos Boozer to score a layup. In addition, seven of Rose's passes created open shots that his teammates missed.

But the worst part of Rose's performance was the frequency of his poor decision-making when he drove the ball into the paint. A total of eight forced (and missed) layups, fumbled dribbles, and off-target passes resulted when he over-penetrated. Rose was fortunate that he was only charged with a single turnover.

As for Williams, he managed to blow past Rose on four occasions and wound up with a like number of layups. D-Will's only other bucket was a 20-foot jumper. His misses included one layup (this, after executing a nifty double cross-over) and seven jays (including a desperation trey in the final seconds when the game was already lost).

Another difference between these two wonderful players was their respective passing games. A breakdown of Williams' 12 assists reveals that two came after teammates hit open jumpers, while 10 of his dimes resulted in layups. In fact, Williams is one of the best screen-and-roll passers in the game.

Early in the contest Williams concentrated on facilitating Utah's offense and really didn't look to score. (Twelve of his passes opened uncontested shots that his teammates botched.) That's why Williams failed to notch his initial basket until 21 minutes had elapsed. But, in the second half, when he tried to score, Williams simply couldn't escape from Rose's super-charged defense.

Three crucial plays in the waning moments of the game illustrated Rose's superiority:

• Williams was riding the crest of a 3-on-1 fast break and a score seemed inevitable. But Rose didn't give up on the play, running Williams down from behind and making a critical steal.

• With the game still up for grabs in the last minute, Williams went after Rose in an isolation situation. But Williams was stymied once more and killed Utah's chances to win by throwing a weak pass that was easily intercepted (this constituted the last and most damaging of D-Will's five turnovers).

• At the other end, Rose took on Williams one-on-one seeking to clinch the victory. A mercurial left-to-right crossover forced Williams to foul him, whereupon Rose calmly bagged the two free throws that put the game out of reach.

It would be easy to say that Williams simply had a bad game, but the truth is that Rose was the primary reason why this was so.

What conclusions can be drawn?

In his sixth season with the Jazz, Williams is a more sophisticated point guard in many respects. He can run an offense with a firmer hand, and has better court awareness. Still, Williams is probably as good as player as he ever will be.

Rose is only 22 years old and competing in his third NBA campaign. For the time being, he's still more of a scorer than a playmaker. But, as good as he is now, if Rose can learn to expand his court vision, and if he can improve his jumper, he has a chance to be eventually become an all-time great point guard.
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