I've been known as a Derrick Rose pessimist. I thought he was a lot more raw than most fans coming out of college. He didn't play in a system conducive to developing his passing game, his defense was sub-par, and he hadn't developed a consistent jumper. He had the physicals and ball handling to make a great pro as well as an attitude and work ethic that made him likely to succeed. We're almost two years into the Derrick Rose experiment, and I like what I see. I think we all like what we see.
It's interesting to think back on how we got here, or at least how I got here given that the rest of you believed immediately.
Derrick came out of the gates dominating the competition. His jumper was amazing early on as was his ability to finish at the rim. A month into the season, I thought the Bulls had 5th seed and 47 win potential as they played extremely well through the hard part of the schedule.
Then Derrick slowed down, the Bulls suffered injuries, and the season went completely in the tank. Derrick's TS% droped from .55 down to .516 by the end of the season largely due to a very rough stretch in the middle as team's adjusted to him. He then broke out in the first game of the playoffs against Boston, overall having a strong series.
If there was one downside to his rookie campaign it was the struggles in final possession scenarios where he put up an 0-fer on the year despite plenty of attempts.
Going into that off-season, Derrick Rose hype was off the charts. We all expected him to bust out of the gates right away and tear up the league. Unfortunately, Derrick's ankle had other ideas. He was nursing an ankle injury suffered in preseason for quite some time, and while we all knew he was hurt as he continued to play, but play unimpressively, I certainly began to wonder if maybe that summer hype was going too far.
He made it through a month and a half to two months of the season with a TS% under .50 which is really terrible for a volume offensive player. His defense wasn't much better either, and he seemed to struggle coasting in and out of games looking unstoppable one minute and invisible the next.
Then something happened. Either the ankle healed, Derrick got sick of losing, his confidence peaked, the coaching staff got to him, whatever it is, everything changed... Since that point, Derrick's aggression levels have been way up. He's shooting more, taking over more, scoring more and becoming more clutch.
For all the improvements Rose has made, the biggest one is the shift in mentality. Becoming an alpha dog when he was initially more comfortable spreading the ball around is a difficult mental shift. It's one he needed to make if he was to become great, and a change in mentality is a shift few players ever make. That change alone gives me hope that Rose goes on to become a top 10, possibly top 5 player.
What will we see from Derrick next year? Who knows? I think he's trending upwards in both his range and defensive ability, so I expect both to improve next year as well. He's also been trending up in FTAs though his increased FGAs exaggerate his foul drawing rate, it's still improved year over year.
The one thing I feel certain of, Derrick Rose is a top 20 player. He's likely to become a top 15 player, and I can finally start to latch on to the hope that he can become a top 10 or even top 5 player.