Saying Rose is a 'Bad Defender' is Wrong

Saying Rose is a 'Bad Defender' is Wrong

The editor of ESPN's primary basketball blog made the pretty bad statement that Derrick Rose is a "pretty bad defender."

rose blocking terry.jpg

Whether or not Derrick Rose is a serious MVP candidate sent the NBA
world all a-Twitter yesterday. The central argument against him are his
efficiency numbers -- only 14th in PER (22.9) and his FG% being so low
(.445) that it's below the Bulls team FG'% (.459).

These are
valid points because MVP, unlike All-Star, conversations deviate to one
name and the tangible negations are more valid that what actually
amounts to making things up out of selective bias.

What's just
flat out wrong is Henry Abbott saying Rose "is a pretty bad defender"
while linking to posts on Rose in the MVP conversation. Note that he
didn't write that to summarize a post to which he was linking, but
adding those as his own words.

Rose's offense and youth lead to a flat-out incorrect knee-jerk reaction
that he doesn't play defense, despite showing a veteran I.Q. in discussing the topic and performing well. Rob Mahoney addressed this on Jan. 19 at The New
York Times
' "Off the Dribble" blog
:

All of that makes for a pretty impressive résumé, but neglects the most
drastic improvement in Rose's game this season; whether due to natural
evolution, Tom Thibodeau's tutelage, or his time with the defense-first
Team U.S.A., Rose has learned to use his incredible physical gifts more
effectively on the defensive end, and has become into one of the
league's most surprisingly effective perimeter defenders.

[...]

More outstanding yet are Rose's individual defensive numbers. According to Synergy Sports Technology,
Rose has allowed just 0.77 points per possession overall on defense
this season, an elite mark for any defender, regardless of position.
Chris Paul (0.86 points per possession allowed), Rajon Rondo (0.83 PPP
allowed), and Russell Westbrook (0.92 PPP allowed) -- all excellent
defenders -- have been trumped statistically this year, and by no slim
margin
. Rose has each of those players handily beat, and boasts a
shockingly comprehensive defensive profile.

Rose is particularly effective in defending isolation sequences,
where he allows just 0.61 points per possession
. Rose's lateral
quickness becomes a huge asset when opponents go one-on-one.

[...]

He's effective in defending the pick-and-roll as well, mostly due to
his persistence around screens. Rose gets picked off just like every
other perimeter player in the N.B.A., but he's quick to scurry and
maneuver back to his man. Rose may be screened, but he's never deterred
.
It's a credit to the Bulls' bigs that Chicago is so effective in
defending the pick-and-roll, but all they can really offer is a window.
It's up to Rose to fight through the screen and recover quickly, to
prevent weak-side exploitation of the Bulls' rotations.

Rose has become relentless. Not perfectly so, mind you, but to an
admirable degree. He doesn't take as many defensive possessions off,
even as he carries an absurd amount of offensive responsibility
. He
doesn't seem to give up mid-play as often as he did in years past, and
instead works diligently to get himself back into defensive position. He
doesn't jump before he should, or take a breather when he shouldn't
.
For the first time in his career, Rose looks like he wants to play
defense, and it shows.

No one is saying that Rose is a lock-down defender, but "pretty bad" just borderlines irresponsible journalism.

Is he frustrating at times? Sure. Will Thibs ever issue him the amount of praise that shuts the book on criticizing his defense? Hell no. Despite the Bulls' league-best 99.4 Defensive Rating, according to Basketball-Reference, Thibs is always barking about defensive mistakes over everything else. Anyone who asks him about the defense will tell you that Thibs says something along the lines of calling it a "work in progress."

Earlier this month, Thibs praised Rose's defense:

"The two areas in which he's probably improved the most are getting over
screens and contesting shots,"
Thibodeau said. "I think now he's
starting to see how he can help with his team defense. I think he's
reading plays well. I also think his rebounding, he knows when he
rebounds and busts out with the ball
, that's almost an impossible break
to stop."

And just about anyone paying any attention to this team can tell you Thibs doesn't give a crap who wins MVP.

Rose has a way to go on his defense, but it's already some of the best defense at his position in the NBA. Also, just because Thibs' defensive scheme is built around bailing out a point guard taking big risks doesn't mean Rose is obligated to take those risks to get two-to-three steals per game.

The user "alucryts" at the RealGM forum posted Rose's updated the numbers, according to Synergy, on Wednesday. Here's what he found:

Defense:
(all points per possession):
overall (17th in NBA): 0.74
isolation (12th in NBA): 0.58

[pick n' roll] on ball handler (46th in NBA): 0.76
post up (13th in NBA): 0.65
[pick n' roll] on roll man (NR): 0.4
spot up (17th in NBA): 0.87
off screen (63rd in NBA): 0.53
hand off (16th in NBA): 1.06

I'm always barking about defensive mistakes in my game-by-game recap and will be the first to say that Rose is on the fence of the MVP conversation. I'll also say that I'm unsure the conversation should extend far past LeBron James -- maybe only to Dwight Howard -- right now.

But, with all due respect to Abbott, "pretty bad" is flat-out pretty bad analysis.

UPDATE:
Abbott revised his statement, admitting Rose has improved, but isn't sure to which level he's improved, adding defense will not "separate him from the pack" to win the MVP. That statement's correct.

But still, he couldn't resist dwelling on Rose's bad defense in his first two seasons to justify his initial statement. That's not about being an MVP candidate, but to justify why he believed Rose is still a "pretty bad defender." In the context of an MVP conversation, nit-picking and exaggerating comes with the deal, but justifying it by noting a guy sucked at defense when he was a 19- and 20-year-old point guard is kinda' lame.

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