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Who Has the More Significant Season: Bryant, Rose, or Lillard?

Two NBA superstars make triumphant, but precarious, returns this year. Which will fare better and will either outshine Damian Lillard?


Time for our weekly Roundtable of Blazer's Edge staff members. This week's topic is a doozy!

Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant will make their long-anticipated returns from injury this season. Many people have speculated about how their returns will impact their respective teams. The Blazer's Edge panel discusses which of the two will have a greater impact on his team and how that impact will compare to Damian Lillard's impact on the Trail Blazers.



With the injuries suffered by Rose and Bryant, it feels a little like flipping a coin for which player will have the greater impact upon return. But due to the factors of youth, quality of teammates, and poor quality of conference, I'll give the nod to Derrick Rose. I can't deny that his minimal impact during the FIBA World Cup was concerning, but I'm also not ruling out the possibility that he was simply easing his way back into playing shape. If Rose comes back at 70% of his former self, or greater, Chicago could be a contender in the East.

Contender status is a dream scenario for Bryant's Laker team, which is expected to be the hot mess of the West Coast. Even if Kobe is at full strength (a reasonable possibility), he's still aging and playing for a team that would need him to play long minutes. In the end, it feels like the upside of his return is significantly lower than that of Rose.

Since I don't expect Rose to return at 100%, nor that the Lakers will be very good, it's very possible Damian will have more impact than both players. At the moment, the biggest hindrance to Lillard's impact is the buzzsaw known as the NBA Western Conference. The goal is less about winning, and more about being the survivor. It's entirely possible that Lillard will have the greater impact than last season, and the Blazers still win less games overall. Nonetheless, I like the odds of Damian Lillard having the most impactful year of all three players.


Evans Clinchy@evansclinchy

All right, I'll just say it: I'm kind of a Derrick Rose hater. Well, not exactly -- I don't hate Rose per se, he seems like a perfectly nice guy all things considered. But I do hate the idea of Derrick Rose. I hate the perception of him. I hate that he's billed as the savior in Chicago, the hero of the franchise, the MVP. He's never been the heart and soul of that team, and he's never been an MVP-caliber player, either. The Bulls have never won with their offense -- it's their D that makes them an elite team, and that's all thanks to Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau.

So who have I got between Rose and Kobe? Easily, it's Kobe. He's craftier and more versatile. He doesn't desperately need his speed and agility to make him good -- he has other basketball skills besides "I am too quick for you mortals to stay in front of me." So if you're asking me to choose which guy comes back from injury better, it's got to be Kobe. He can tap into a rich database of skills to keep his game from stagnating. Rose doesn't have that luxury.

As for Lillard, though, I'll take him over either of the comeback kids. His efficiency numbers don't compare to a healthy Rose or Kobe, but Lillard is younger and has much more potential to improve. I expect that he will. I also think the Lakers are fading fast into irrelevance, and the Bulls will win this year with an ensemble cast instead of a ball-dominant Rose. So... yeah. Lillard. For all of these reasons, give me Lillard.


Chris Lucia@ChrisLucia_BE

Both Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant will make a serious impact on their respective teams, given full health. Rose, however, will lead a Chicago Bulls squad that will have little trouble in the Eastern Conference making some noise in the playoffs. Their only real competition for a top-seed out East are the Cavaliers, Wizards, and Raptors. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, will be launching 20-25 shots a game for a Los Angeles Lakers squad that will likely end up somewhere in the bottom-five of the Western Conference no matter how his season shakes out.

If you saw the success of the Bulls last year in the playoffs even without Rose, it's evident that Chicago wins more because of coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes and Joakim Noah's anchoring of the defense. The Lakers have zero chance of going anywhere this season without a healthy Bryant -- just like last year. So I guess I'd call Bryant's impact on the Lakers more "serious" than Rose's on the Bulls.

The Blazers need Damian Lillard more than Chicago needs Rose because I don't think Portland has a scheme that could carry it to any playoff success without its All-Star point guard. I don't think the Blazers would be as horrible without Lillard this year as the Lakers were without Bryant last year, so I guess you could say a healthy Bryant would make more of an impact on his team.

Really, though, I doubt the Lakers will even sniff the playoffs this year regardless, so in the grand scheme of things, Lillard's impact makes more of a difference for the Blazers. With him, the ceiling is the conference semis or better; without, they'd struggle to get into the postseason at all.


Ryan A. Chase

Rose by a crazy margin. A healthy and productive Rose, even at 70-80%, means the Bulls get a 3 or a 4 seed in the East. Meanwhile, even if Bryant is at 100% (which seems unlikely), the Lakers will struggle to make the playoffs. This is not the same Kobe Bryant that dominated the NBA previously. He is 36 years old, his legs are falling apart at the seams from the absurd amount of minutes he has played in his career, and he does not have that evasiveness to create his own shot that once made him so feared.

Just look at the Lakers. They are starting Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson for goodness sake. The team has a lot of young potential, but Carlos Boozer is not going to solve the problems the team has, like Steve Nash playing as a ghost of his former self, or the risk of Bryant's legs disintegrating again.

As far as Lillard goes, his impact means more than Rose's and Bryant's combined. If Lillard pulls a Ricky Rubio and vanishes off a cliff into the Columbia River Gorge, the Blazers would barely sneak out an eight seed in the West. They need him to be that second high-output scorer to allow LaMarcus Aldridge to create mismatches, and allow Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews to find holes for their shots.


Scott Horlbeck@scott_horlbeck

Being that the Lakers have about a zero percent chance of making the playoffs this year -- it has to be Rose by default.

I think Damian Lillard has a bigger year than both of them. My only worry is that I want to draft him in fantasy this year, and I'm a bigger jinx than the Madden Cover.


Willy Raedy

Kobe won't play a meaningful game all year. Seriously, the only time the Lakers are going to be favored to win a game in the Western Conference is against Utah -- at home. Rose could push his team from good to great and should hope to play in the Eastern Conference finals. I don't see how this is a debate. Even if Kobe is great and Rose is mediocre, Rose's season will still matter way more.

Peak Kobe and Rose were better than Lillard but they have a lot of climbing to do to catch back up. Returning to top ten guard status would be an incredible and, at this point, completely unexpected success. Lillard is also trying to push his team over the top so I gotta go with our boy "Don't Doubt Me Dame" every day of the week and twice with 0.9 seconds left.


Sagar Trika@BlazersBySagar

I measure impact by difference in wins if the team had the player and if the team didn't. In the case of Bryant, I don't think the difference is significant. The guy is aging and trying to play on legs that have already played 45,567 minutes throughout his career (that's a lot). Maybe the addition of Kobe gives the Lakers another 3-5 wins? Maybe?

Given how poor the Eastern Conference is, I think Rose's impact on his team (7-10 wins) will be greater than Bryant's. Lillard, however, is well above both Rose and Kobe.

Where would the Trail Blazers have been last season without Lillard? Portland likely would have been a fringe playoff team that would have struggled to make the postseason, if at all, and finished with a first round exit. I think the win difference for Lillard could be anywhere from 10-20 games (yes, it's a large range).

I don't think the Blazers go very far next year without Lillard playing anywhere close to how he did last season. Given his youth, he'll likely improve rather than take a step back.


How do you think Rose and Bryant's impact on their respective teams will compare to Lillard's on the Trail Blazers? Sound off in the comments below.