By Aran Smith

Last year the Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant debate began midway through the season and turned into the biggest hoops discussion of the year, raging all the way to draft night with the Trail Blazers ultimately taking the big man out of Ohio State with the top pick.

This year’s draft once again presents us with a great debate at the top — Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley? Conventional wisdom has always been that when in doubt, go with size. But today’s NBA premium on point guards evens the playing field.

After seeing the two play as rising seniors in Las Vegas in July of 2006, the talent was unmistakable. And despite considerable hype around O.J. Mayo, they leapfrogged him to 1 and 2 on the NBADraft.net 2008 mock draft.

Beasley has not only been the most dominant college basketball player in the country (averaging 26 and 12), but the most dominant freshman in recent memory. His numbers trump last season’s player of the year Durant, and since early in the season, he’s been considered the odds-on favorite to be the top pick this year. But a funny thing happened during the NCAA tournament, as folks got to see just how dominant and important Derrick Rose can be to a team, with Memphis coming a missed free throw from winning a national championship.

Speaking to NBA scouts, it appears to be a dead heat as to which of the two should be the first pick. Some still prefer Beasley, while others have swung to Rose. One thing is clear, there’s a significant drop-off after the top two selections. Let’s examine the pros and cons of both players.

Michael Beasley

Pros: Beasley has the potential to be a 25 and 10 guy at the next level. He can be absolutely dominant offensively as the game comes so effortlessly to him. His amazing body control and aggressiveness allows him to jump into the lane and spontaneously make plays around the rim. His touch is, in a word, special, and gives him the ability to effortlessly score in bunches. His versatility to play physical and score inside or on the perimeter gives him a ton of offensive potential.

Beasley’s combination of agility and strength is extremely rare. He often rebounds missed shots way out of his position using his phenomenal body control and soft hands to tip the ball to himself. Beasley has a man’s body at 18 years of age and seems to enjoy contact.

Forcing someone like him to play two years of college (a rule the NBA is considering for the future) would border on the ridiculous. His game is NBA-ready now, and he should have no trouble equaling what Durant did this year in Seattle, only with more efficiency.

Cons: Beasley came into Manhattan, Kan. with the reputation of a loose cannon. While he has been a model citizen since arriving on campus showing that he has matured, there are still greater character concerns with him than with Rose. For a player with such immense talent, why is it that he was not asked to come back to play his senior season at Oak Hill Academy?

Is he a player that cares more about statistics and individual accolades than winning? Beasley’s decision to attend Kansas State over a team like North Carolina, UConn, or Kansas can be seen as a knock against him in the sense that he chose a team where he could display his individual talent instead of playing for a national championship.

The effortless nature of his game could actually turn into a negative. A number of scouts feel that Beasley could turn into another Derrick Coleman. And while that may not be such a terrible thing (DC averaged 20 and 10 for five seasons), Coleman is seen as a bit of a bust, given the amount of talent he possessed. He seemed to enjoy the NBA life over the competition and striving to be a champion. There is the fear that without proper work habits, Beasley will become just a talented jump shooter, not fully utilizing all of his physical talents.

Beasley’s NBA position is also a bit of a question mark. Is he a 3 or a 4? It depends who you ask. While he has the strength to rebound against NBA power forwards and the range to play on the perimeter, he’s still on the small side for a NBA PF at 6-9, 235 lbs and lacks the foot speed of most NBA small forwards. He has the talent to play whatever position he wants, but without a clear-cut position, it is a slight detriment. How big a problem this will be is questionable, but it’s certainly worthy of consideration in the debate.

Derrick Rose

Pros: Playing the point, Rose will have the ball in his hands, and he has shown the rare ability to run a team and make his teammates better. His speed and athletic advantage allow him to dominate opponents on both ends of the floor. And while Beasley is a solid defender, Rose can absolutely lock down opposing point guards as he showed in the tourney against highly regarded Darren Collison and D.J. Augustin. As great as Rose has been at the college level, his game seems better suited to the pro game where more athletic teammates will be able to fully utilize all of his talents.

With the great success that Utah and New Orleans have found taking point guards high in the draft in Deron Williams and Chris Paul, the value of a game-changing point guard continues to rise. Rose has a chance to be every bit as good as these two, which is a big statement considering both players would rate in the top 10 in value among all NBA players.

One scout told me, "It’s a no-brainer, he’s a quicker Jason Kidd, but Rose can actually shoot it a little bit." Rose puts such tremendous pressure on opponents with his blinding speed and ability to push the ball up the floor. He has excellent vision and passing ability to set teammates up and is nearly impossible for any guard to contain single-handedly. He has Tony Parker quickness to get by opponents and into the lane, only he’s 6-3 and can finish at the rim.

Cons: He’s 6-3 and not 6-9 like Beasley. The bigger the player, the bigger their opportunity is to impose their will on games, or so the logic goes. Most of the lead dogs on recent NBA championship teams (Magic, Bird, Hakeem, Shaq, Duncan) have been 6-9 and over, with Jordan, Isiah and Wade being the exceptions.

Rose is not a lights-out shooter and often defers to teammates in the clutch. While he had a big scoring push in the final five minutes of the national championship game to give Memphis a nine-point lead, he still needs to work on his jump shot’s consistency and range. He seemed to improve as the season went on, and has a solid shot, but he’s not likely to be as big a factor scoring as Beasley in the short or long term.

Coming so close and not winning the national championship. Will this have a lingering effect on his career a la Chris Webber? Rose won’t be viewed as the goat that Webber became after the time out incident. Not to mention, Rose’s bad habits include eating candy for breakfast, which is a lot easier habit to break than Webber’s well-documented recreational activities.

The Choice

Derrick Rose. If the decision is made to take the player that gives a team the greatest chance to win NBA titles, the obvious choice is Rose. The value of being able to impact a game individually as well as enhancing the level of teammates is too much to pass on. Rose also brings a greater impact on the defensive end of the floor, and while he likely will never match Beasley’s offensive output, his overall impact on the game will be greater. So many NBA teams are rudderless, languishing through season after season with no direction. When you have a true point guard, like Williams or Paul, you have a team. As great as Paul is, a strong contender for MVP after leading the Hornets to a franchise best 56-win season, Rose has a chance to be as good, if not better.


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