Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls
Rose is third in PER (15.92) among rookies who have played 30-plus minutes a game, first among non-centers. Among rookies, he is second in scoring, first in assists and first in assists per turnovers. And perhaps the most important stat of all is that the Bulls are back in the playoffs and have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break. (Sometimes this has less meaning for rookies who play small roles and rarely play big minutes. But with Rose, it takes on more meaning because his role has been huge in Chicago. As have his minutes.)
But the case for Rose is more impressive once you get past the easy stats above. From Day 1, the Bulls have operated around a system that best allows Rose to play to his strengths: attacking the rim and finishing. His dribble-drive game is deadly and his strength allows him to finish shots even when he hasn't totally beaten his defender. He gets to the rim for 39 percent of his shots, which is a strong number, and he finishes 56 percent of them, which is even stronger.
Early on, teams allowed him to drive and did not devote much energy into helping onto him. So he flourished as a scorer, averaging 18.9 ppg on 50 percent shooting from the field in November. Then teams started helping more, forcing him to pass and think more. It worked to some extent, as Rose saw his scoring drop by over two points per game, while the Bulls had a losing month in every month until March.
But during that time, he learned to make easy passes out to teammates if opponents reacted quickly to his drives. And, when forced to be a scorer, he became more efficient at getting baskets, especially in his midrange game. So when the Bulls added more perimeter threats at the trade deadline, their offense took off because of his lessons learned.
One of Rose's best traits is his willingness to be a role player when necessary, allowing his teammates to take the bulk of the shots when the matchups dictate that. He has a maturity that is beyond his age and experience. His selflessness, though, is matched by his soaring confidence that he can take over at any time. And, in those times, he has earned his teammates' trust because they know he's trying to make the right play for the team. They'd be OK seeing him score just 9 points on 7 shots (with 7 assists and 5 boards) in a win just as they would be if he went for 23 points on 25 shots in a loss.
Those attributes are even more powerful than his stats, and they are what will make him an All-Star in the years to come, a key member for future versions of Team USA and a postseason star for the resurgent Bulls going forward.
By helping the Bulls return to the playoffs, Rose gets the nod for rookie of the year. Beating out Lopez and this outstanding class is noteworthy, and it's just the beginning for this special talent.