We argue. You decide.
DERRICK ROSE (by Casey Mack)
As expected, Team USA brought home a gold medal from the World Championship in Turkey. Even though the NBA heavyweights were not on hand to participate in the tournament, the up-and-coming stars filled their shoes nicely.
One place in particular where the youngsters stepped up was at the point guard spot. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook set the bar so high at the position that NBA champion Rajon Rondo withdrew from competing for minutes against those two. Both surely did their thing over the summer, and now a big debate has developed. Who’s better: D-Rose or Westbrook?
It’s a no-brainer that Rose is the better of the two.
We can start off by just looking at their NBA numbers to show how Rose is more of a go-to player. Rose edges out Westbrook with a regular season career scoring average of 18.7 points per game, to Westbrook’s 15.7 ppg. In the playoffs, it’s the same story. Both seem to perform better when it matters most, but D-Rose plays just a level higher. Rose averages 22.7 points in the postseason, better than Westbrook’s 20.5 points during his one playoff series.
Rose is also the more accomplished player. He was a Parade All-American three times and made the McDonald’s All-American game in high school. In college, Rose won the NCAA Tournament South Region MVP and made the All-Final Four Team. Westbrook’s amateur resume is nowhere near as impressive. As for accolades in their pro careers, D-Rose is still the winner. Rose has the ’09 Rookie of the Year under his belt and an All-Star Game appearance, two things Westbrook cannot claim.
Running the lead guard spot takes some special skills. Rose has grown up in this spot and has played the role since high school. Westbrook is still learning the position. Point guard skills are crucial when it comes to wins and losses. Give the ball up too many times, and a loss is sure to follow. Westbrook has averaged 3.3 turnovers per game in his career. On the other hand, Rose only turns the ball over 2.6 times per game. When the game is on the line, who would you rather have with the ball in their hands?
Both of these guys have bright futures ahead of them. Both are the premier point guards of tomorrow, but when it’s all said and done, Rose will be remembered as the better of the two. He plays a bigger role for his team and contributes more statistically than Westbrook. Russell Westbrook is learning the position well, and rather quickly, but D-Rose is ready and able to be the best at the position.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK (by Andrew Macaluso)
When it comes to playing in somebody’s shadow, no one does it better than Russell Westbrook.
After a sophomore season of posting 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game, Westbrook won over near-sighted critics with the League’s eighth-best assist total (seventh among point guards). He quarterbacked a 50-win team and he keeps making plays that approach astonishing. He was also OKC’s best weapon against the Lakers in the playoffs, slashing inside for bucket after bucket and giving the defending champions a scare in the first round.
There’s another point guard who also makes astonishing plays in his own right and was drafted three spots ahead of Westbrook in ’08 that you could make a comparison with — Derrick Rose.
Although I’d love to have both of these cats running my team, unfortunately there can only be one top dog. They are similar in size (both 6-foot-3, Rose weights 190 pounds to Westbrook’s 187) and both rely heavily on their athleticism to make plays. But I’m a big believer in defense, so this choice wasn’t hard for me to make. Westbrook has a 6-7 wingspan to go along with a 36-inch vertical, which automatically gives him the edge in the defense category. Russell owns Rose in steals (1.3 spg last season to Rose’s 0.7 spg) and rebounds (4.9 rpg to 3.8), and in the World Championship constantly changed the game for Team USA by creating havoc on defense while Rose sunk into the background.
Westbrook is also undoubtedly the better leader between the two and willing to distribute the extra pass to his teammates, handing out 8.0 assists per game last year to Rose’s 6.8 per game.
In a highly-anticipated Thunder/Bulls matchup last season — which OKC won, 98-85 — Westbrook got the better of Rose after scoring 29 points (13-24 FG), grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists. Rose finished with 19 points, 3 boards and 7 assists. Westbrook also earned a Western Conference Player of the Week honor during the month of February, averaging nearly a triple-double over three games (19.7 ppg, 9.7 apg, 8.0 rpg). How about the game against Golden State, where Westbrook had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 steals? Let me know when Rose decides to throw down stats like that. The crazy thing is, Westbrook still isn’t fully comfortable at the point guard position — with his 3.3 turnovers a game — which shows he can get a little out of control at times but he’s only going to get better and the possibility adding a couple more triple-doubles to his belt isn’t that far off.
Westbrook and Rose are both playing the big-league point guard at the age of 21. Point guards have to make split-second decisions every game, on the move, and they can flounder, which Westbrook did during his rookie season after playing shooting guard at UCLA. But Westbrook has flourished since then. His decision-making gets better by the week, his production keeps rising, and his flaws are fading fast. That’s what happens with 21-year-old point guards.
Rose wins in the offensive category no doubt, but with Westbrook’s size, speed and strength — along with his ability to lead a team and never take a night off on the defensive side of the ball — he gets the nod as the better all-around point guard here in my book. The facts say it all; defense wins championships.
Who do you think is better?