Even this Rose has a thorn or two


Fellow TrueHoop Networker Matt Moore recently posted the following glowing appraisal of Derrick Rose at Hardwood Paroxysm: “He’s worlds above every player on that team. The style on offense is flashing and brutal. He’s active and focused on defense, never frantic, never lost. He’s certain with his movement, slick with this adjustments, and there’s not a piece of his game I haven’t seen from him. Hustle, rebounding, touch, power, speed, quickness, anticipation.”
That makes for great copy, and it certainly mirrors the media’s general assessment of this year’s Bulls squad: They suck, but Rose is great! However, I’m not sure that’s entirely and unerringly accurate. Not right now, at any rate.
Don’t get me wrong, Rose is really, really good. But “worlds above every player on that team” is, at this point, a fairly serious overstatement. Ben Gordon is a better and (believe it or not) more efficient scorer (Gordon has a True Shooting Percentage of 57.1 compaired to 51.0 for Rose). Kirk Hinrich is a better playmaker. Luol Deng, now that he’s finally healthy, provides more of an all-around contribution (not to mention more consistent mid-range marksmanship). And if you want some advanced stats, here they are: Rose trails teammates Gordon, Joakim Noah and Deng in both Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares. (According to John Hollinger’s rankings, he’s 11th among rookies in PER.) Rose ranks eighth on the team in Offensive Rating (105 points per 100 possessions), trailing guys like Joakim Noah (117), Aaron Gray (111) and even Larry Hughes (106). He’s also dead last on the team in terms of his individual Plus-Minus score (-87).

As for the “active and focused on defense, never frantic, never lost” part, as someone who’s been watching every Bulls game avidly, it just ain’t true. He gets lost. Even burned at times. (For further reading, please refer to The Revenge of Andre Miller.) If by “active and focused” Matt meant “he’s trying hard,” okay, sure. But there’s a reason why Derrick is tied (with Ben Gordon) for the second-worst Defensive Rating on the team (112 points given up per 100 possessions). And, to a certain extent, that’s to be expected. He’s a rookie who’s still learning what it means to play NBA-caliber defense. They’re called growing pains, and Rose is going through them.
Mind you, none of this is meant to demean Derrick’s talent or his importance to the team. He is, without question, The Man of Today and Tomorrow. It’s just that the massive and widespread praise of his game is due in part to his solid play through 48 games but also to his enormous potential. He can (and very likely will) become one of the league’s elite point guards. He is, at the current time, merely a very good one. That’s why he may one day be an All-Star but, as of now, is not.

For the record, the same thing happened this season with the Chicago Bears’ rookie running back Matt Forte. The “great” label was slapped on him a little too early because he exceeded expectations and happened to be the brightest spot on a rather mediocre (and ultimately disappointing) team. But he had exactly three 100-yard rushing games…against the winless Detroit Lions, the hapless St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts, who have long had the league’s worst rushing defense. And his 77.4 YPG average had him on the outside looking in at the top ten.

My take on Rose is as follows: He’s terribly strong and atheltic for his position. A fearless penetrator and fantastic finisher. So-so jump shooter (and kinda bad from beyond the arc). Thus far an average to (at times) slightly above-average playmaker who gets many of his assists off of simple drive-and-kicks. An okay defender who can be (and often is) taken advantage of by more experienced guards. Hasn’t yet adjusted to uncalled contact on his drives. Very good with the talent and determination to be great. Someday.

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6 Responses to Even this Rose has a thorn or two

  1. DocBoone February 2, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    Who cares about efficiency ratings and all the other hoopla and hogwash? What you just described was a team of players who all have talents in different areas. The fact that he is better than everyone else is like saying MJ was better than everyone else. Ok…duh. Everyone has a role on a basketball team, and that’s what you just stated. The problem is how do you get them to all play their roles, and become a better basketball team.

  2. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 2, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    DocBoone — “Who cares about efficiency ratings and all the other hoopla and hogwash?” Well, there are many hoops analysts, such as John Hollinger, who care very much about all that balderdash. Obviously, they are only tools; they don’t tell a story, only one small part of a much larger tale.

    But the overall point was that Rose is really good but not a superstar-level player who’s far above his teammates. Indeed, he’s not even an All-Star-caliber player yet.

    Obviously, you’re right about the problem, although it’s beyond the scope of this particular post. It takes many things, from the top down. Solid ownership, the right direction, excellent coaching, chemistry, and a lot of luck. I like what I’ve seen the last few games, in terms of the players functioning together as a unified whole. That hasn’t been the case for most of the year.

  3. Tom February 3, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    I think the playmaker comment is a little misfounded. The reason he only makes drive and kicks is because that is the only thing that is ever available. There is little to no off the ball motion on this offense while Rose is penetrating which means all he can do is pass to a big man (and they usually are not looking for it), pass outside or shoot. I am not saying that he definately has the potential to be a Chris Paul type passer, he certainly could be better than he has shown if given the opportunity.

  4. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 3, 2009 at 1:18 am #

    Tom — Here’s the thing. Some guys are just natural playmakers and some guys have to learn or be taught. And while it can certainly be argued that the Bulls’ set offense doesn’t always provide Rose with ideal circumstances with which to create, it’s also true that there are plenty of busted plays/improvisational situations in which, were his playmaking skills more natural or better honed, that he could create opportunities for his teammates. One example that comes to mind is John Bagley, who was a so-so talent with a real knack for creating opportunities for his teammates. I think Rose will get there, but right now it’s not one of his primary strengths.

  5. ddllinker@gmail.com'
    Elcorin February 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

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  6. DocBoone February 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    I got you. I was reading yesterday when I should have been paying attention in a meeting. I see what you were saying now after reading the article for a 2nd time.

    Rose is good, and he has some talent around him… but there are too many other factors that make the thorns growing from these player’s sides stick out more than they should. Maybe it’s just me, but I expected the Assistant Coaches to help Skinny Del Negro a little more than what’s showing. The last few games have been great outings, but this stretch of road games is going to say something for our team for the 2nd half of the season.

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