Where are we really at with Derrick Rose?

I've been debating about how long to wait before writing this piece, and I've been hoping that it would become unnecessary over time.   Even now, I hope I look like a moron in a month, and the stupidest man alive in two years, but I think it's time to discuss where we are at with Derrick Rose in an honest way.
I'm sure most of my readers are aware of the hour long podcast I did describing Rose's game prior to the draft.   You know that I was a 50/50 fence rider between Rose and Beasley.  I projected Rose to have a higher ceiling while Beasley would have a higher floor and would be a better fit on the roster.   A patient franchise willing to rework it's roster could be much better off with Rose down the line, but if Rose didn't live up to that potential then reworking an entire roster for a guy who fails you would kill the team for a half decade.

Make no mistake, the process of rebuilding the entire roster has begun.   Ben Gordon's gone, and we've already seen signs that Luol Deng and Rose aren't a great fit going forward if neither can shoot the three and both continue to take up the same kind of lanes cutting to the basket.  Hinrich's a solid player, but he won't be maximized playing SG, so it makes sense to reallocate his cap number to a guy who's playing to his potential.  

So where is Rose at right now?   First, let's start off with the good, because there is plenty of good.

In his transition from college to the NBA, Derrick improved his jumper faster than I ever dreamed possible.   I didn't think he was going to have any real jumper in the NBA for several years.   Even in his rookie year, he's shown an ability to nail the mid range pull up jumper.   We're not talking about an open look, but a hard cut, stop on a dime, rise and shoot jumper.   It's not an easy shot, and for  Derrick to shoot it as well as he does given the type of shooter he was in college has been very impressive.  

I don't know if he'll ever be a three point shooter because he doesn't put as much arc on his shots as you typically see good three point shooters use, but I'm confident that Derrick can continue on to become a great mid range shooter, and that's really all Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade do.

Coming into this season, someone must have spent a lot of time locking him in the film room and going over his defense, because his defensive positioning has improved dramatically.   I wrote in my defense article to give VDN credit for putting together this defense with his personnel and ripped on Rose's defense, but I was speaking about how I viewed Rose going into this season as a player I wouldn't count on defensively.

He's still not a tremendous defender in that he's not aggressive in bothering the ball handler or ever smothering his man to ramp the pressure up on him, but he's no longer getting completely lost on pick and rolls nor is he so flat footed that guys are killing him in isolation.  Derrick's positioning and effort are much improved, and I'd say he's no longer a liability on defense, and my hopes for him becoming an asset on defense are improved considerably.  He has the athletic potential to become a beast defensively at some point, and he's made steps in that direction.

Not everything is good news though.    There are a few problems with the way Rose has played so far this system and trying to figure out if they trace back to the ankle or not is the question.   My first intuition is to say it has to be the ankle.   Afterall, he was driving at will last season, so why wouldn't he be able to do it this year?   A second theory is that there's too much defensive attention on Rose due to the Bulls lack of three point shooting.   A third theory might be that the league has figured out Derrick, and he's yet to adjust.

Whatever theory  you subscribe to, Derrick isn't driving the lane nearly as frequently anymore.   He's not able to get where he wants on the floor, and he's not hitting the inside shots when he gets there at nearly as high a percentage.   Perhaps more disappointingly, one of our biggest hopes going into this offseason was Derrick ramping up his free throw attempts, but Derrick is still driving to avoid contact rather than to generate it, and he's not getting to the line significantly more frequently.

What worries me most about watching Derrick play is that when he gets the ball out in transition, he's no longer th one man fast break.   He used to push the ball so hard and beat back other guys that he generated a couple baskets a game that he had no right to score by out running everyone with the ball in his hands and scoring.    He's rarely been able to do that, and on top of that, when he is in transition and only has one man to beat he looks scared to try.

In one on one or two on two situations, Rose isn't pushing the issue, but he's instead setting up the regular offense.   For a guy who's primary skill is driving the lane isn't going to see a better opportunity later in the offense when all five guys are back.   Last season, you would have expected Derrick to take all of those opportunities and score on 60-70% of them.   This seems like an issue with the ankle or an issue with confidence in the ankle. 

His passing has been a mixed bag.   If I wrote this column before the Charlotte game, I would have noted that he's shown a great improvement in his ability to pass.  He's definitely creating more inside, open scoring opportunities at higher rate this year.   Those are the kinds of plays that make great point guards great.    After one of the sloppiest passing games I've ever seen him have, it's harder to commit to those words.  

All in all, I'd like to give him credit for improving and call a mulligan on that Bobcats game.   However, after seeing Brandon Jennings play against us, it reminds me what a guy with natural court vision should look like as a young player.   I was a massive Jennings hater in the draft, as I thought he looked awful in Europe, but seeing him in summer league, preseason, and the regular season has opened my eyes to the kind of creator he is. 

I've never seen Rose flash that kind of passing vision or creation ability, and I don't think he's likely to ever do so.   It's not necessary for him to become a great player, but it was one more avenue he could have gone down to do so.  I think Rose steadily improves his PG responsibilities on the team, but I also think he'll always be a threat to pass because he's such a threat to score more so than his ability to find guys with amazing vision and passing ability.

If I had to list just one fear with Rose though, it would simply be this:  I'm nervous that he doesn't have the type of personality to become the supreme alpha dog.   On both ends of the court he's prone to getting passive for long stretches of time.   I'm trying to think of other players who were like that and went on to become great.   In my memory, most of the greats came out firing right away and didn't stop even if it was to their detriment.   Rose is going to need to learn to stay amped all game instead.  

Right now, I don't know what to think of or expect from Rose.   Is his confidence shaken?  Is his ankle still a factor?   Does this team simply not space the floor enough to give him a chance?    Is this simply a small slump to start off the season that he pulls out of? 

It didn't take long for me to decide Rose was going to be worth rebuilding around last season.  He came out the gates far stronger than I'd ever hoped.   A year later though, and I'm beginning to worry again as his progression from year one to year two isn't what I'd hoped so far. It's not panic time, especially with a central leading 4-2 record, but it might be time to remove the teflon coating and stop pretending some of these issues don't exist.

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  • My advice, calm down and don't over-react here.

    He's didn't have a pre-season and he isn't at full strength yet. He will make the All-Star team this year. Mark it down.

  • I still believe it's a combination of the injury and the subsequent inactivity. In his only preseason game, he was really sharp and aggressive. He seems to be cautious in his first six regular season games.

  • I think Rose is dealing with a lot in the early going that is allowing me to give him a pass...

    His 3-point shooting disappeared with a free-agent signing in Detroit...
    His ankle is still recovering, and he had no preseason....
    He had his first off-season in the spotlight....

    Coupled in with the fact that, as a whole, he's a pretty mild mannered and young guy...I'm optimistic.

    I think you brought up some valid points about his game. But, on the flip side...I don't think its fair to 2nd guess the kid in the face of all he's going thru.

    He's surrounded by stable veteran players...and I think his rapport with Noah and Lu is going to improve down the stretch. Come All-Star Break...we should all be singing his praises again.

    *crosses fingers*

  • Derrick is a cool dude. I experienced his interaction first-hand when him and my sister was playing ball in the winter at the park about five years ago. People know him as Pooh but my sis called him Guile(Street-Fighter). Derrick isn't going to jump out the loop and become assertive until some serious players conflate the UC court. Coach Cal and Jay Williams even mentioned it. Derrick is the new Jason Kidd. The dude is a true Point Guard with nutty athleticism. I witness one time at the park, Derrick had got so tired up losing to the other team, he switched his shoes and started tappin their assets. I'm positive Derrick is going to be greater than most expects. Give it time.

  • I saw Derrick throw a pass while attempting a 360 in person. He was playing against my old high-school, Corliss. Every time Tim Flowers and their second options wasn't surfacing, Derrick would begin to kill as soon blood began to seep fear. He's a Chicago PG, you don't doubt a Chicago Guard. Plus, the dude favorite hooper is Lebron James. He averages nutty assist and they play the exact same style. Them guys aren't hitting their open shots. Salmons won't increase Rose assist rate because he wants to hold the ball, unlike Ben Gordon, whom will let it fly. I bet Stuckey is loving the fact BG is there. Rajon Rondo physic allows him to do them creative passes because he's not physical like Derrick. I'll never doubt Derrick abilities.

  • He's Derrick Rose! This kid is a player and a true competitor, never count him out. He's young, hungry and talented. He will back in no time.

  • Great article Doug, I sometimes think you are the head of the Derrick Rose haters club, but I see we see completely eye to eye on him. I can't disagree with anything you say. All this summer I've been telling my friends the one thing that may really inhibit Rose from becoming great is his personality. I too can't think of any player who is passive and is great. The one thing I will say for Rose in this department is he tends to come up big in fourth quarters. We've seen it twice this year already with two games where he had 10 pts. Last year he had many games where he had huge fourth quarters. He's never hit the game winning buzzer, but he doesn't seem to be afraid to take it either, those will hopefully fall in time.
    I'm hoping the ankle has been bothering him more than he's let on. I've seen positive signs the last two games. I think the Cav's game was the first time he looked to have his normal speed, before that he seemed slow. The turnovers were no good against Charlotte, but his shot looked really nice. It was coming off his hand with that perfect spin that comes with good technique. If he can shoot with that technique he'll be a force.
    I too have been concerned about his driving to the basket, he seems a bit shy about it. Even when he does get there, there have been times where he passed and clearly should have shot. Actually this is funny because I remember last year you commented he had blinders sometimes when he went to the hoop, maybe he heard you and is over compincating. Wouldn't it be nice to have such powers?

  • Give the kid a break. It's only six games in. Try to remember game one of the Boston series. He's that kinda player.

  • I think he will be a top 5 Point Guard when it's all said and done 10 years from now.

  • It's the ankle...

    I would say his slower start this season is his ankle.

    He's probably playing at under capacity physically. His improved defense shows work from the off season.

    For me, I will compare Chris Paul's second season to Rose for the greatness test.

    But let's be patient, Rose is probably doing the best he can on 1 and 1/2 ankles.

  • Don't get me wrong I love Rose. If you knew me you would know I was saying I would take him with the first pick long before the Bulls had the pick. I've never bought into Beasley and think Rose can be a superstar.
    I think all Doug is doing is pointing out that if Rose is going to be a superstar he still has a lot of improvement to make. That we as fans need to hold him to a higher standard.

  • ...should say "if Rose is going to be a superstar."

  • I openly admit to being a DRose lapdog...Anyway, I agree with your sentiments, and have my own concerns about his play this season, mostly on track with what you are feeling.

    All in all though, I have hard time thinking its anything more than his ankle / conditioning / mental state right now. I think this will all improve with time, but we'll see. I wanted Rose to come out firing this year for 20+ a game instantly. Didn't happen . I think the injury is the primary, the 2nd issue is the loss of BG's outside threat. Hopefully if Deng hits the corner 3 more, Salmons / Kirk start to take off a bit more (Salmons finally looks to be coming out of his rut)...I think some of that will happen as well.

    All in all its just 6 games into the season where Rose missed the whole preseason and still seems timid /70% so far. A sorta bad analogy, but Deng looked terrible last year whenever not at full strength. We finally get to see him there this year and its night and day difference, AND it took quite a while for him to get there (rhythm wise he's still not even). DWill was also hurt at the beginning of last season. When he came back, he was pretty awful for a while (my parents are HUGE Jazz fans and they suffered about it constantly.) After a while though same ol' Dwill. Inury's in basketball take longer than other sports to bounce back from.

    So I think it would be smart to just give this some time. It's very hard to do when everyones biting their lip that the "Cornerstone" doesn't turn out to be an average player, but I dont think he will.

  • Yeah, I have 0 doubts he will be a good point guard...It's me hoping he'll become great that has me crossing my fingers. I think the potential is there, to me its if he can stay healthy, and learn to be a bit more assertive.

    Even when healthy last year, only when he was being really assertive did you get a glimpse into a future where he becomes great. When he was healthy and in attack mode, he was scary good for a Rookie. We'll see if he can get that back.

  • The only way I see rose learning that alpha dog mentality is if we put him in a situation that fosters it. Either by having a coach (or coaching staff) that demands it of him or by having a veteran on our team that will call him out, not necessarily for not living up to potential but for just playing up to his capability.

    I don't think his ankle is an issues anymore. But I do think many of his problems stem from his lack confidence in it (ankle) and coaching issues.

  • Fair questions. Reasonable answers. I agree with those that think it's a bit early to get overly concerned and that the ankle is still a factor. It is reasonable to wonder if Rose will be a future MVP level superstar and perhaps even likely he will not. I don't think, however, there is any reason to "worry" about Rose at this stage. If he's still playing at basically this level in March, then I might rescind that comment. Right now, I'd still project Rose as a solid #1 guy who will eventually play at an all-star level.

  • He's not as far away from that level as you think. He just need to knock some rust off and he'll find his stride again. Don't worry.

  • I appreciate that you have clarified your view on Rose isn't wether he'll be good / bad, but wether he'll be good vs great...also in relation to how high the bar is set, fair or not.

    I always felt this is where you were coming from, but wasn't certain. If you didn't know that before, I could see how people may view you as a, "Hater." Nothing wrong with keeping it real. I read this blog daily just because it seems to be grounded in reality...even if at times it seems a bit overly much so, its always nice to have a professional straight forward point of view.

    If anyone wants to go on a nice over-reactive-but-passionate emotional roller coasters, BlogABull is your place! Don't get caught up in the insta reaction negativity and it can be a pretty fun forum : ) Take everything with a grain of salt.

  • Doug have you ever had a severe injury one that didn't need surgery but limited you to inactivity for a long time? I played D3 ball at a real small school and injured my achilles in my right ankle and it took me 3 months to fully recover from and gain confidence that I could use it fully.

    Right now I think you're being hard on Derrick, Jennings made a flashy pass in his big "4" assist game versus the Bulls. I've seen Derrick make some pretty spectacular passes as well. You always seem to underrate his court vision and passing. Now I will be the first to say Rose forces some passes instead of shooting what would be a relatively easy shot for himself.

    Also the whole attacking the rim is on Derrick right now, I've seen Kirk able to turn the corner on teams such as the Cavs who play everyone one on one with lots of weakside help and Kirk was able to get to the rim at will it seemed like. Derrick is not only lacking his burst to do so but also his confidence in that ankle.

    I can go back to the Milwaukee game Derrick had to dunks where last year he would have two handed and tomahawked it down but he barely was above the rim. Or even on some of his full court drives, for example against Cleveland with Gibson on his hip, he still lacked that burst even though he got to the rim.

    I'll say this, in Indiana during the preseason Rose looked very crisp and he was getting to the rim and his jumper looked as if it had more legs than before. It might take a while because I remember when Deron Williams injured himself at the UC he didn't look right for almost a quarter of the season and blew up.

    I think when Rose is right this year his averages will be around 21&7. He's getting a little more love from the refs when he attacks the rim, he just hasn't reall attacked it.

  • In reply to fanofgame:

    I mentioned the DWill scenario up above in my post as well. It was a hamstring, but the ramifications were similar (and ironically? because he landed on DRoses foot if I remember correctly). He missed quite a few games, came back very sluggish (to which over reactive Jazz fans screamed the sky was falling) but eventually caught his stride and looked every bit as good as he has.

    I think we are just seeing the injury / rust being a bit more nagging than they made it out to be in the pre season. Derrick didn't want to let on that he was that hurt, but I think it was more of a mess than anyone knew.

  • In reply to fanofgame:

    Once again, Derrick Rose will be just fine. The cream always rises to the top.

    Instead of over-reacting or picking his game apart, try looking at his limited minutes and how many open shots are being missed, off of his passes.

    Granted he has some turnover and shooting issues, but as soon as he gets he legs back under him, I'm sure that will change. Before long, he will be attacking the basket with authority.

    He's the cream!!!

  • In reply to fanofgame:

    I like Derrick and think he will be a very solid bulls for years to come but I just think that alot of teams figured him out. He cant shoot so make him shoot, cut off the lane to the basket and double him, force him to either shoot or make a pass with very little time on the clock. I dont see Rose ever being that great of a pg but he will be a solid one though. If i can add something to his game i would add Westbrooks shot and Rondos aggresivness.

  • In reply to Newskoolbulls:

    If you think Westbrook can shoot better than Rose, I advise you go to 82games.com and look at the splits. And why would Rose want Rondo's aggressiveness? I question the bball IQ of many basketball fans...

  • In reply to Newskoolbulls:

    Doug-

    Big picture, yes, never too early. I was referring to the injury not being fully healed yet. Also the league has had the entire offseason to catch up with him. Now Rose has to make HIS adjustment...but my larger point was, even John Stockton needed Karl Malone to make that jump from good to great...right now, the Bulls dont have the complimentary player to see D. Rose make that jump.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    This is very true IMO. We need an allstar caliber player to compliment him / take some heat off of him / open it up.

    We had this to an extent with BG..he was too scary to leave open at the 3, so it naturally allowed Rose to do what he does best...However BG IMO wasn't good enough for the money he was demanding (probably should have paid the guy a few years ago at 9 or whatever it was though.)

    Had we locked ourselves up with BG's contract this year, we wern't going to win any titles. Just wern't good enough, and I think management knew that. So we again need someone to help Rose out, but BG wasn't THE guy to do that with. We need someone more along the lines of Bosh etc..BG would have been nice to keep around, but locking up the franchise AS IS wasn't going to do it so we had to move on..Here's crossing our fingers that we land a nice FA shortly.

    Of course they could have went into the cap for a change to keep him + add another allstar, but thats another topic all together.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    I would still draft Derrick over Jennings ten times out of ten. You can ask all the questions you want whenever you want, but judging a young player coming off of an injury is pretty reactionary....especially when he doesn't get the opportunity to play out of it. He should play more than he is. He is sitting for far to long of stretches.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    "Had we locked ourselves up with BG's contract this year, we wern't going to win any titles."

    Vohaul-

    Right on..the bottom line is, we had to kind of take this season as it came, and hope for the best. My opinion, if we REALLY want to have a shot at a title, we have to land a big time FA this coming offseason...and that meant going thru this year without a true scorer...

    Although to be honest, with the core of Rose, Deng, and Noah, I think a potential FA is going to see that, coupled with the opportunity to be "the guy" here and that is very attractive.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    Doug, you have every right to ask these questions about Derrick. If he is gonna play through an injury than he has to be ready for the criticism that comes with it if he isn't playing well.

    I was worried until the Cleveland game. In the 4th quarter DRose took over the game and Lebron had to switch onto him. That's what I have been waiting for, Lebron/Kobe/Wade/Battier to switch onto him because he is unstoppable. And the last couple of plays John Salmons and Deng iced him to show us how great they are, and they got a 24 second violation.

    To me it seems like Rose is saving himself for the 4th quarter because of fatigue from the injury. I was so angry during the first half of the Bucks and Cavs games but to me it is obvious that he isn't gonna do much until the 2nd half.

    I am happy because the Bulls are 4-2 and I know DRose isn't gonna avg 12ppg, we are looking good so far.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    The thing about Derrick is his ability to be a trend setter. The guy is the only basketball player I've seen since Lebron James truly care about winning and feels indifferent about stats. Rose scored 2 points in his highschool championship game - I believe. That was the game recruiters thought Rose was a 4 star talent. Seriously, Rose has to be the most instinctive player to enter the league in a long time.

  • In reply to Dmband:

    A few thoughts: He's definitely not physically 100% and that's throwing off the rest of his game.

    If you look at tape from the last two games Derrick did a lot of "dancing" with the ball: fancy dribbling to get some space and shake his guy. It was notable because he did it so rarely last year. His signature move is that blowby first step, it's usually one shake and go, but he doesn't have that explosion back yet, and it's limiting his whole offensive game: screwing with his timing, making his moves slower and his passes less dynamic, etc. But he seems to be working and hard and should have that soon.

    Longterm, the things he needs to work on are on display. He hasn't grown into that "second level" veteran's game yet where he sets up his man to draw fouls, knows how to really use screens, and work on all number of speeds beyond stop and full go. All that will take time. But he did put work in on his jumper, and that will help, because defenses trying to contain him for the shot and the drive will open up all sorts of stuff for him to do. But again, to me these concerns are things you look for over the course of the season. His early struggles are more to do with the injury, imo, than any greater strategic issue or crisis of confidence.

  • In reply to fanofgame:

    I think your comments are Rose are warrented, however, I think its way to early to start asking the question. I have no doubt that in 2-3 more weeks he will be right back to form. However, that being said, I still think what will ultimately hinder Rose's development is the lack of a true go-to-guy...Make no mistake about it, this team has talent. Until they add that ONE player, Rose will not fully achieve his potential, and neither will this team.

  • In reply to fanofgame:

    Here's why you don't want to over-react. Check out Chris Paul's stats his first 2 seasons.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/p/paulch01.html

    Are they mind-blowing numbers? I can easily see Derrick Rose putting up 17 and 8 this year.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    I can see this as well. In fact I was actually thinking he could put up 20ish / 6-8ish...He was already at 16.8 ppg last year. Ideally he'd be more the 18-20 this year with a bumb in assists (he's of course more of a scorrer type PG than a passer, however assists can be misleading when your teamates are hucking up bricks after you pass to them...).

    I think he's just a bit rusty and Bulls fans are jumping to conclusions too early. Its easy to do since its obvious everyone and their dog wants this kid to be GREAT, not just good. The entire franchise really hinges on this kid at this point...No pressure Rose, No pressure : )

  • Chris Paul was also playing with an All-Star Power Forward, David West, and probably better overall talent. That always helps the stat-line.

    The point is Derrick Rose will be fine. He's well on his way to All-Star status. If he puts up 17 and 8 this year, like CP3 did in his 2nd year, I'll be more than happy with that

  • Derrick Rose did win Rookie of the Year last year, right?

    Gee-wiz. We are only 7 games into his second year. A year where he didn't get a pre-season, because of an ankle injury. Let's not over-react people. With his work ethic and will to win, Derrick Rose is well on his way to be one of the best players, at his position, in the league.

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