Is Derrick Rose better than Chris Paul?

Editor’s Note: For those of you looking for Wins Produced Numbers for this year you need to look no further than The NBA Geek. You can find a plethora of easy to look through stats here: NBA Geeks – NBA Players

With the player comparison engine it’s also remarkably easy to compare players like say Chris Paul vs. Derrick Rose.


Rose Has a Long Way to Go Before He Catches Paul

The general consensus in the media seems to be that if Derrick Rose isn’t as good as or better than Chris Paul, he isn’t far off. This is most clearly evidenced by Derrick Rose’s MVP trophy and his spot on the All-NBA First Team last season over Paul, who was named to the Third Team. Of course, in this kind of voting, the media generally only takes two things into account: Team Wins and Points Per Game. Despite the unambiguous reality that basketball is a team game, a great player on a bad team will probably never win an MVP. In addition, a great player who doesn’t score a lot of points probably won’t win either. This of course is due to the Yay! Points! thesis. While Chris Paul probably scores just enough points to be considered for the MVP award, the teams he has been on have never been quite good enough to get him there. Derrick Rose on the other hand was on the team with the best record in the NBA last season and he scored more points than all but three other players. But we know that scoring a lot of points isn’t all there is to being a great player, don’t we? In fact, out of context, a particular player’s points per game or total points is essentially meaningless with respect to that player’s contribution to his team’s winning percentage. Shooting efficiently, creating more possessions to give one’s team more opportunities, and taking care of the basketball in order to limit the opponent’s opportunities are much more important. So how do Rose and Paul stack up against the average point guard in important aspects of the game over each player’s career?

Paul vs. Rose in Career Numbers

Player Chris Paul Derrick Rose Average PG
eFG% 0.503 0.488 0.482
FT% 0.853 0.817 0.821
STL48 3.07 1.07 1.86
AST48 12.93 8.67 8.74
TO48 3.20 3.73 3.51
ORB48 0.93 1.33 0.90
DRB48 5.07 3.73 3.86
BLK48 0.13 0.53 0.32
PF48 3.33 2.00 3.45
STL:TO 0.96 0.29 0.53
AST:TO 4.04 2.32 2.49
NetPoss48 5.87 2.40 3.11
PPG! 18.6 20.9 10.2
WP48 0.304 0.113 0.100

The career numbers of the two players are barely even comparable. Paul is above average in almost everything. Rose is not. Rose has shot slightly more efficiently than the average point guard, and that is probably what has kept him above average for his career. But Paul’s numbers are better almost across the board. In particular, Paul’s steal to turnover ratio is over three times higher than Rose’s, Paul has shot much more efficiently, and Paul’s net possessions (a stat that captures all the possessions a player has created for his team minus the possessions he has given up to the opponent) are well over double Rose’s. To put it bluntly, Paul has helped his teams win much more than Rose has helped his. But Rose is still young, and has undeniably improved since his rookie season, so perhaps looking at last season will be more accurate:

Paul vs. Rose in 2010-11

Player Chris Paul Derrick Rose Average PG
eFG% 0.502 0.485 0.482
FT% 0.878 0.905 0.821
STL48 3.15 1.35 1.86
AST48 13.10 9.88 8.74
TO48 2.97 4.41 3.51
ORB48 0.64 1.28 0.90
DRB48 4.84 3.95 3.86
BLK48 0.08 0.81 0.32
PF48 3.28 2.14 3.45
STL:TO 1.06 0.31 0.53
AST:TO 4.41 2.24 2.49
NetPoss48 5.66 2.17 3.11
PPG! 15.9 25.0 10.2
WP48 0.309 0.161 0.100

Rose has improved with respect to free throw percentage, assists, and defensive rebounds. This has been enough to markedly improve his overall production. Indeed, Rose is well above average. However, Rose still struggles noticeably with respect to steals and turnovers. In fact, Rose’s net possessions were lower last season than they have been over his career. Also, Rose has not improved his field goal shooting efficiency. Consequently, Paul was nearly twice as productive as Rose last season.
J.A. Adande used Friday’s Bulls-Clippers game (a small sample size by anyone’s measure) to assert that Rose may now be the best all around point guard in the NBA, and not just “the best player at point guard.” Adande had previously used the latter title to describe Rose because he believed Paul was better at fulfilling the traditional duties of the point guard position. But, Friday’s game aside, Rose has not only failed to fulfill the position’s “traditional duties” as well as Paul, he has failed to perform any of the important duties of a basketball player as well as Paul has. Proponents of Rose can always point to the “eye test” just like they can point to the existence of Bigfoot, ghosts, and the flying spaghetti monster, but the numbers don’t lie. Paul is superior to Rose in the most important aspects of basketball: shooting efficiency, possession creation, and efficient use of possessions. Rose has a long way to go to catch up. He’s still young and can improve. That said, he’ll need to double his performance to match Paul.

Rose’s recent win over Chris Paul was impressive. We know from past experience that a single game may be enough to skew voters in regards to Chris Paul. We’re not sold just yet and it will take many more games from Derrick Rose before we’re ready to declare him better than Chris Paul.


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