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Rookie Watch: Rose, Beasley still learning

There are perks to being the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the NBA draft, of course. However, they can be mitigated by circumstances, such as the state of the team the players are drafted to or the quality of teammates surrounding them. Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley have experienced this first hand. And both have been confronted with unique challenges that no other rookies in this class have had to face. Let's examine.

Rose: Balancing act

First and foremost, Rose has so much riding on his shoulders in Chicago. The Bulls' offense uses mostly ball screens for Rose, expecting him to attack and score or draw and dish. He gets a lot of isolations at the top and is expected to beat his man and create a good shot.

Initially, teams were not helping on his drives, forcing him to score and keeping his teammates uninvolved. When Rose proved he could score enough to help the Bulls win games, many teams started collapsing their help into the paint to make things tougher on his drives.

Thus, he's averaging 2.3 points per game fewer in December than he did in November, and his field goal percentage has dropped from 49.6 percent to 45.3, which is still pretty good. What's noteworthy is that his assist numbers have not improved during this stretch. Why? Because Rose is a scorer first, distributor second.

At such a young age, it shouldn't be surprising that he has a scorer's mentality; he's been unguardable for much of his basketball-playing life. Still, it's easy to imagine that he'll learn to be more of a balanced distributor as he gains experience and as long as he stays humble and hardworking.

The area that I'd really like to see Rose grow is on defense; the realization that he's such an important part of the Bulls' offense is coming at a price on the other end.

It takes incredible energy to play both sides of the court with equal effort, and since his efforts on offense are so strong (oftentimes by necessity), matching that effort on defense is too tough a task for such a young player.

Too often, most of Rose's energy is sapped by what he has to do on offense, so there isn't enough left in the tank to use on defense. For Rose to be able to compete better on defense, he has to lighten his load on offense. For instance, maybe he can pass the ball outside more (which requires less energy) instead of forcing shots on drives in traffic (which require great energy).

He should never be a full-time ball-conveyor -- he's too talented a scorer for that -- but doing it part-time will earn him more opportunities to rest, which translates into having more energy to burn on defense. Picking spots better on offense is something all point guards have to deal with, but few are asked to do as much as Rose. If he can learn this nuanced approach to offense, his defensive presence will rise a great deal. And the Bulls' offense might improve, too, as most offenses get better when the ball moves quicker from one player to another.

Beasley: More than just instincts

Beasley has had to make more adjustments on the court than Rose has, simply because Rose dominates the ball now just like he did in college. Beasley, on the other hand, has had to get used to a totally different role.

By far the best college player in the country last season, Beasley is not even close to being the best player on his own team now. In fact, he's only the third-best forward on the Heat behind Shawn Marion and Udonis Haslem. He's a better pure scorer than those two, to be sure, but he's still prone to mistakes. And those mistakes get him pulled.

So dealing with failure and limited playing time are all new to Beasley. But he'll figure out that part of the game.

The bigger adjustment for him, however, involves how he uses his instincts. First, here's how the dictionary defines instincts:

-- a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency

-- a natural aptitude or gift

Beasley's instincts as a scorer are very special, some of the best I've ever seen. His sense of finding and attacking creases in the defense is amazing. His ability to snake the ball around arms and hands and find a way to make a shot is astounding. In some respects, he's a bigger, stronger version of George Gervin.

But the same instincts that helped him destroy every opponent since the eighth grade are hurting him a little now -- because NBA big men are taller, longer, faster, quicker, stronger, smarter and tougher than any collection of players Beasley has encountered before. So the instinct to drive baseline and get to the rim for an easy bucket or foul now often results in a blocked or missed shot. The same result occurs on putbacks and simple post moves, too. Beasley can still get to the same spots he always could -- his instincts and abilities take care of that -- but finishing is much harder.

Consider Haslem, who while being about the same size (but not as long) as Beasley, and playing the center position much of the time, gets about 24 percent of his shots near the rim. He makes 66 percent of those shots, and has just 8 percent of them blocked. Beasley, on the other hand, takes 30 percent of his shots inside and gets 21 percent of them blocked, while making just 48.9 percent.

On top of that, Beasley has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.6 which is the fourth lowest of all rookies. Of the 68 power forwards in the entire NBA, Beasley ranks 63rd in assist-turnover ratio. This is a clear case of a player who needs to fight his instincts to get more efficient productivity, which is ironic seeing that it was his instincts that, for the most part, helped him get to the NBA in the first place.

This is not unique for a player to deal with, or any person for that matter. A person may instinctively want to reach for something sweet in the grocery store. A 10-year-old will want to dart across the street to chase a ball. Chauncey Billups used to want to pull up for 3-pointers in transition when playing for Larry Brown. Instinct told them one thing, but experience or good teaching taught them another. So it is with Beasley. In his gut, he thinks he can drive and bang and maneuver and ultimately score every time he gets the ball. But his game experiences are telling him something else, and he has to trust those reference points.

Instead of taking the bigger player all the way to the rim, a pull-up jumper may be a better choice. Dunking the ball in traffic can also be a better choice than laying it up. And passing up a one-on-one opportunity early in the clock by moving the ball around can end up getting him a better shot later in the possession. Beasley has to look only at Haslem, a gifted and instinctive college scorer, to see what I'm talking about. Haslem had 24 percent of his shots from the paint blocked during his rookie season.

The future

Both of these guys can be All-Stars and Olympians one day. They are that talented. But the NBA has been littered with guys full of potential who just kept on playing the same way, making the mistake of thinking, "I just need to play my game." So they stopped developing and ultimately got outplayed by others.

If these two guys evolve into the players they are capable of becoming, a Bulls-Heat game will be more than just must-see TV, it could also be a game that has championship implications for years to come.

David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for Scouts Inc. and the executive director of the Pro Training Center at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for more than 40 NBA, European League and D-League players. Those players include Kevin Martin, Rob Kurz, Luol Deng, Courtney Lee and Tyrus Thomas. To e-mail him, click here.