Following Saturday night’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Derrick Rose had played 40 games, a feat he had not accomplished in a single season since 2010-2011 in which he became the league’s youngest MVP ever. Rose added another game to his total on Sunday night in a close win over the young Orlando Magic. Much has changed for Rose since his MVP season. He’s suffered two brutal knee injuries which robbed him of 3 playoff runs and almost 2 entire regular seasons.
Since returning, Rose has not been anywhere near the player he once was. Rose’s player efficiency rating (PER) has dropped from the 23.5 of his MVP season to just 15.8 this year, barely above the league average. Rose’s Box Plus-Minus, a box-score based estimate of Rose’s impact on the game per 100 possessions, has dropped from a sterling +5.8 in 2010-2011 all the way down to a below average, -1.0. Rose is also scoring fewer points per minute on more shots than ever before. Much of Rose’s drop in efficiency can be traced to the changing distribution of his shots, reflecting the changing nature of his game.
Simply put, Rose is getting to the basket much less frequently than he did when he was at his best. In 2010-2011, Rose took 29.4% of his shots within 3 feet of the basket. This season, only 26% of Rose’s shots are coming in that area. Even more troubling, Rose is finishing those shots at a much worse clip. In that storybook season when Rose and the Bulls took the league by storm, he made 61.1% of his shots within 3 feet of the hoop. This season, that number is down all the way to 54.3%. Rose’s diminished effectiveness combined with his reduced opportunities at the basket have contributed quite a lot to his reduced impact. To top it all off, though, Rose’s floating around the perimeter, he’s shooting many more threes than ever before, has had deleterious effects on his ability to get to the foul line: a staple of his effectiveness in his best season. In that magical season, Rose drew .348 free throw attempts for every shot he took. This season that number has dropped all the way down to .216 free throws per shot.
There are other worrying indicators for Rose. Though he was never a particularly prolific dunker, Rose almost never dunks anymore. At his peak, Rose dunked on 2% of his 2 point shot attempts. Now that number is all the way down to .04% as Rose has just 3 dunks on the entire season. That’s a pretty enormous drop off. For reference, Russell Westbrook, another explosive point guard who came into the league with Rose and has also suffered his own knee troubles, is dunking on 4.3% of his 2 point attempts, right in line with his career average. Westbrook has not seemed slowed or hampered at all by his injuries, while Rose seems to be a diminished version of his former self.
It’s tough to disentangle how much of Rose’s reducing his forays to the paint and the rim is mental and how much of it is a drop in physical ability. In watching him night in and night out, he seems to be just as fast as ever, but he doesn’t appear to have the same vertical explosiveness he once did. Even if Rose never gets that burst off the ground back, he can still become an extremely effective player based on his speed, but he has to fundamentally alter his game and improve on aspects of his skillset that he never really needed so badly before. Maybe that’s what his struggles this season have been about: evolving and building a new skillset, a new path to effectiveness. That has to be the hope for Rose fans, because it looks like the version of Derrick Rose who can explode up and over opponents (hi, Goran Dragic) might be lost to us.
Statistics for this piece via Basketball-Reference.com.
Kevin is a man obsessed with basketball from a state where it’s often too cold to play it much (Maine). That’s okay, he’s better at watching than doing anyway. You can find him on Twitter: @NBACouchside or at his website NBACouchside.com.