Name: Derrick Rose
Birth Date: October 4, 1988 (20 years old)
Birth Place: Chicago, IL
Nicknames: D-Rose, Pooh, South Side Sorcerer, Windy City Warlock
Drafted: 2008, 1st round, 1st overall by Chicago
Experience: 1 season
Previous teams: None
Contract: $5.1 million in 2009-10
Expect: A blossoming All-Star
Don’t expect: Any letup
By all indications, Rose is an All-Star in the making. As a rookie, he led the Bulls in Assists Per Game (6.3) and Minutes Played (3000), and he was second on the team in Field Goals Made (574), third in Points Per Game (16.8), third in Free Throws Attempted (250), and fourth in Field Goal Percentage (.475). League-wide, Rose ranked 12th in Assists (512), 13th in Minutes Played, 16th in Assists Per Game and 17th in Field Goals Made. In terms of advanced stats, his notable team ranks were first in Assist Percentage (28.8), second in Usage Rate (22.6), third in Win Shares (5.0) and sixth in Player Efficiency Rating (16.0).
But those are just numbers. Let’s talk about his game. For starters, Rose can cut through opposing defenses like a Ginsu knife, slicing and dicing his way into the paint almost at will. He’s a nightmare to cover one-on-one or in the open court, and his defenders often choose to play off him to force a jumper (more on that below). But even with a few feet of separation, Rose can still blow by his man in a variety of ways (crossover, stutter step, hesitation dribble, etc.). Once Rose gets to the rim, he can finish from almost any angle. He can throw it down, lay it up, or toss in a floater. Furthermore, Rose has the upper body strength and physical control necessary to absorb contact and convert in traffic. And while these skills are amazing in half court sets, they are flat-out unbelievable on the break. When Rose hits the accelerator, his opponents might as well just step out of the way or smile for the poster.
As I mentioned above, defenders would much rather let Rose shoot than drive. Last season, 60 percent of his field goal attempts were jumpers. His Effective Field Goal Percentage near the hoop was .577 but only .419 when shooting from distance. Clearly, his outside marksmanship wasn’t what it could be, especially from three-point range, where he converted only 16 of 72 attempts (22 percent). However, his stroke — not to mention his confidence in it — improved over the course of his rookie year. In fact, according to the NBA.com Hotspots page, Rose went 43-for-81 (53 percent) from midrange over the last 10 games of the regular season. And he’s been working hard on his shot, taking 500 (or more) jumpers a day, six days a week. If Rose can drill ’em from the outside and extend his range beyond the arc, he will become a nearly unstoppable scoring force.
However, let’s not forget that, first and foremost, Rose is a point guard. He’s done a serviceable job in that capacity. Rose runs the offense that Vinny Del Negro has designed: he passes to the open man, feeds teammates who have a mismatch, and executes a lot of drive and kick-outs. During the 2008-09 campaign, he sometimes stalled the offense by over-dribbling or forcing a pass, but those are pretty common rookie mistakes. (Although there are plenty of veterans who do the same thing.) Generally speaking, he’s reasonably efficient (if somewhat conservative) as a playmaker. According to 82games.com, he dished out 512 assists last season while committing only 106 “bad pass” turnovers. That comes out to 4.8 assists per passing turnover. Overall, Rose lost the ball 202 times as a rookie, which means he averaged about 2.5 assists per turnover. That’s a pretty good ratio.
What Rose did not display in his first NBA season was a lot of creativity. Rose isn’t particularly good at creating offense on the fly (like, say, Steve Nash) or thinking one step ahead of the defense (like a Chris Paul or Jason Kidd). He runs plays. He hits the open man. He doesn’t throw many careless passes. Those are good things. But to become a truly great point guard, Rose must see the court, anticipate player movement, and see openings before they appear and the defense can adjust to them. Moreover, he must createthese openings with his ball handling and savvy. That’s the sign of an elite playmaker.
Last April, David Thorpe said Rose needs to study Chauncey Billups: “A dynamic and unselfish talent, Rose must become more of a thinker on the floor. Right now, he often just reacts to what he’s confronted with. Billups, on the other hand, is like a computer, rapidly figuring out the odds of each decision he faces and the consequences of each action. As opposed to college guys who pass only to open players, guys such as Billups find ways to get their better players open, then get them the ball. When Rose learns this part of the game, while still factoring in his own scoring talents, he’ll join the upper tier of the league’s point guards.”
Of course, as the point guard, Rose usually has the ball in his hands. However, even when the ball is in “hot potato” mode, he can be effective. In general, Rose does a good job of moving without the ball in the set offense, but he’s not much of a spot-up shooter, preferring instead to make hard cuts to the basket. It would be best, however, if Rose could seriously upgrade his ability to spot up, especially from three-point range. After all, science has proven that a team’s offense becomes much more efficient when the point guard can knock down a high percentage of his three-point shots.
It’s interesting to note that, despite his many forays to the hoop last season, Rose averaged only 3.1 free throw attempts. Some people believe that Rose wasn’t aggressive enough, but I don’t think that’s the case. I believe that his low number of FTAs was due to the fact that he was a rookie. First off, NBA officials tend to make rookies pay their dues (no matter what David Stern says). Secondly, Rose hasn’t yet learned how to sell fouls the way veteran players do. Trust me, his fouls attempts will increase this season. And so will his free throw shooting percentage, which was 78.8 last season.
Let’s get something straight: Rose has the sheer physical ability to be a top-notch defender…maybe one of the best in the league at his position. Want the proof? Check this out. And this. For the record, that second play was a must-stop situation that occurred during the final seconds of the third overtime of a playoff elimination game against the defending NBA champions. Feel free to say “wow.” I’ll wait.
Here’s the problem: those two plays were exceptions to the rule. During his rookie season, Rose didn’t focus on or commit to defense on a consistent basis. Generally speaking, he could usually be found in the general vicinity of the man he was guarding. But Rose rarely put pressure on opposing point guards. He had trouble fighting through screens (which is more about strength of will than strength of body). He wasn’t very vocal when defensive switches were needed. He struggled (sometimes mightily) to keep his man in front of him and his hands were usually closer to his own waistband than his opponent’s shot attempts.
On the bright side, he was a rookie. It’s possible that Rose’s defensive struggles were part of the learning process that all first year players go through. If he can improve his fundamentals and turn up the intensity, he could become a defensive beast.
One of Rose’s most impressive traits has been his maturity. The kid was unflappable last season. He never hung his head after bad games, never shrank away from big moments. That’s exactly what a team needs from its point guard and franchise player/team leader. However, Rose has so far been one of those quiet, lead-by-example types. That’s not going to cut it. For Rose and the Bulls to take the Next Step, he has to become a more vocal leader. Again, Rose was only a rookie last season, and Ben Gordon was semi-entrenched as the team leader (at least in critical situations). It’ll be interesting to see how Rose’s leadership skills develop this season.
Speaking of Gordon, Rose will most likely inherit his clutch shot responsibilities. Instead of watching BG scramble around the three-point arc trying to invent a shot, I expect to see the Bulls’ clutch offense revolve around high pick and rolls involving Rose and one of the team’s bigs.
One other concern — albeit a minor one — is whether Rose will be negatively affected by the controversies he was involved in this summer. Honestly, I don’t think it’ll be a problem…but you never know.
Rose is a lightning-quick, hyper-athletic point guard who can drive into the heart of a defense and make great things happen by finishing or passing. His jump shot is still suspect, and his ability to create offense needs to improve…as does his defense. He could also stand to become a more vocal leader. But these are all nitpicks. Rose was fantastic during his rookie season and has what it takes to ascend quickly to greatness.