Late last night news came down that Derrick Rose would miss an extended period of time due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. That’s the same surgery that forced him to miss the 2014 season, and coupled with the ACL tear in his left knee in 2012 its becoming more and more likely that Derrick Rose will never again return to his 2010 MVP peak. For basketball fans everywhere, this is incredibly sad news.
In Rose’s MVP season, he displayed athleticism for the point guard position that was essentially unmatched at that point. While Russell Westbrook was still learning to harness his powers, Rose was slashing through defenses, finding open shooters, and leading the Bulls to the best record in a conference that included LeBron James. To say that the Bulls were the best team in the league with a healthy Rose would not have been a huge stretch.
Then came the injuries. Even before this most recent meniscus tear, it’s pretty clear that Rose had lost most of his trademark explosiveness that made him so special. The last two seasons have both started with hope that Rose could someday return to peak form, but both have ended in disappointment. It’s more likely at this point that Rose will join lists of tragic “What Ifs” then lists of all time great point guards.
Rose has two years left on the massive 5 year, $94.8 million dollar extension that he signed after his MVP season, but it’s clear at this point that the Bulls can’t count on him playing a full season anymore. The truly sad part of this though, is that I think the Bulls may actually be better off without him.
Rose’s superstar status allows him certain privileges when it comes to his role in the offense. He has a usage rate of 31.3% this year, which is right on pace with the rate that he put up during his MVP season (32.2%.) That’s the kind of usage you’d expect for a former MVP, but the problem is that Rose is far from a superstar at this point. Since he’s lost his explosiveness, Rose is relying a lot more on his shaky jump shot, and the results show in his numbers. Only 26.2% of his shots are coming at the rim this year, and the lack of close range attempts have brought his field goal percentage down to 40.7% on the season. Since he’s not driving as much, his free throw attempts have also nose dived from 6.9 a game during his MVP year to 3.8 a game this year.
So if he’s not shooting in close, where is he shooting from? The answer, unfortunately for Bulls fans, is the three point line. The NBA is currently entering a phase where midrange jump shots have become taboo, and smart NBA teams are relying more and more on the three pointer because it’s a more efficient use of the shot clock. While that’s true in a vacuum, it does have one caveat; you have to actually be able to make three pointers. For as good a player as Rose was, he’s never been able to extend his range behind the three point line. In the past, that wasn’t a problem, since it was such a miniscule part of his game; 3s only accounted for 24.1% of his shot attempts during his MVP year. And because he was only taking them when he was wiiiiide open, he was making them at a below average, but still respectable rate of 33.2%.
This year, almost one third of Rose’s shot have come from behind the arc, and as you’d expect the results have not been good. He’s shooting only 28.7% from three point range, and he’s doing it on 5.5 attempts per game. To put that in perspective, Kyle Korver, one of the league’s best sharpshooters and someone who’s in the league primarily because he can stroke it from deep, is averaging only 6.0 three point attempts per game.
On paper, Rose’s per game averages look relatively good for the season; 18.4 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.1 rebounds are pretty respectable. But when you consider the volume that its taking him to put up those numbers, it’s clear that he’s becoming a burden on the Chicago offense. His 16.9 shot attempts per game are first on the team, and he’s taking away touches from Chicago’s true superstars, Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that redistributing Rose’s shot attempts to the rest of the roster would result in a better offensive efficiency.
Rose’s minutes are largely expected to be replaced by a combination of Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks, while they’re clearly not the same level of player that Derrick Rose is/was, they can provide the Chicago offense with some desperately needed shooting. Since Chicago plays two traditional big men for essentially the entire game, their spacing on offense can get a little cramped at times. Add in another non shooter like Rose, and it creates a lot of havoc in the paint for Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. They’ve been able to overcome it thanks mostly to their incredible passing ability as big men, but with a third shooter on the outside that the defense has to respect, it may open up more room inside for everyone.
Watching Derrick Rose these past two seasons has been hard to do. On some nights, he’ll fill up the box score and show glimpses of the player that he used to be, like the last game before the All Star break against Cleveland. He dropped 30 points and 7 assists in a big win, and allowed people to wonder if he’s finally turned a corner. Maybe that could be the spark he needed to put together a massive 2nd half of the season. Unfortunately though, those games for the most part have just been blips on the radar. Like other point guards that wowed us for a short period (Langston Galloway, Jeremy Lin), eventually Derrick Rose’s game drifts back to mediocrity.
Its so sad to think about the fact that Derrick Rose could go from youngest MVP in league history to out of the league in such a short period of time. Even sadder still, is that that may just be the best case scenario for the Chicago Bulls right now. Its time for Chicago to start think about life AD (after Derrick.)