The Derrick Rose Of Old Is Dead

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest myth in the NBA today, is that when Derrick Rose is healthy, he can still produce the superb performances that caused the world to fall in love with him during his dazzling 2010-11 campaign. 

I used to be a Derrick Rose believer. Every season since Rose was flattened with a torn ACL against the Sixers back in 2012, I've foolishly thought that the only thing holding Rose back was his injury luck. I used to think that Rose still had the 2011 version of himself ready to breakout at any moment. But now, I know the truth and it's something that every Knicks fan that wants to believe Rose can lead them deep into the playoffs needs to know. 

Most fans have fallen into the trap of believing that only injuries are holding Rose back and that he just needs to be set free of the shackles of his wobbly knees in order to rediscover his form. But this opinion is short-sighted, over used and doesn't make enough sense for me to truly believe it. The phrase 'if he's healthy' must have been uttered 10 billion times this offseason in relation to Rose. However, a more accurate way of putting it would be 'if he has a time machine'. 

The truth is, Rose's injury luck isn't the thing that is holding him back. Last season, he proved it as he had a healthy season by his standards. Rose played 66 of the 82 games in the Bulls' season and didn't suffer any major injuries. His body still endured a lot of minor, niggling injuries that kept him sidelined for nearly a fifth of the season, but for the most part, Rose was healthy. In fact, the 2016 season saw Rose play the most games he had since 2011. 

Despite his reasonably healthy season, Rose was absolutely dreadful. He looked completely out of touch with the sport and didn't look like a natural basketball player at all. Last season, he registered the lowest points per game average of his career (excluding his 10 game 2014 season), had an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 1.74, made just 42.7% of his field goal attempts and 29% of his three-point shots. The advanced stats don't show his 2016 campaign any love either, he somehow managed to produce a negative offensive and defensive box plus/minus (which landed himself a -3.3 box plus/minus overall) as well as securing a -0.7 value over replacement player. To add on, his Bulls were nearly 5 points better per 100 possessions without Rose on the floor. 

If you look at ESPN's real plus/minus stats, it looks even worse. Out of the 81 point guards listed, Rose ranks last in RPM wins with a -1.53 score (for reference, Steph Curry scored a 21.1 in that same statistic). He then ranked 77th out of the 81 point guards in RPM as a whole, with a -4.27 rating, only ahead of Shabazz Napier, Ty Lawson, Mo Williams and rookie Terry Rozier. 

So just to summarize, in his healthiest season since 2011, Derrick Rose was arguably the worst point guard in the entire league. 

While I don't think it's his injury luck that has Rose in the state that he is in, to me, it's obviously what the injuries have done to his body, not necessarily what they could do in the future. As I watched Rose last season, I kept getting the feeling that he had no idea how far his body had deteriorated. Rose attempted to pull off those same crossovers that his 2011 self used, he was still attacking the rim in the same way and was still trying to maneuver his body, as if nothing had happened to it. But after a torn ACL and after tearing his right meniscus twice, his body clearly isn't built to play like his former self. It seemed to me like Rose thought he was powering along in a Ferrari, when in actual fact, he was piddling through the streets of Chicago in a Camry.

Obviously, you can't blame Rose for his injuries. Without them, who knows where Rose would be today? Would he have turned into what Russell Westbroook is today? Would he be the second coming of Jordan, that Bulls fans hoped he would be? Unfortunately, injuries are apart of sport and instead of hoping his knees will strengthen up again, D-Rose needs to adjust his game to suit his new, fragile body. 

In 2016, Rose struggled mightily with his body. He was pulling out all the moves that were getting him buckets back in 2011, but his body has decayed to the point where even at his healthiest, he simply can't finish like he used to anymore. Rose thinks he can still use his ultra-athletic moves to barrel into the lane, spin through three defenders and throw down a two-handed jam, but his body doesn't allow him to do that. He doesn't get the lift that his former self did, he doesn't bolt past defenders like before, everything that made him great in 2011, is gone and if he likes it or not, he needs to adjust his game to find a style that he can use his decayed body with. 

His problem last season wasn't that he wasn't playing like he was in the past, the problem was that he was trying to. Instead of taking more jump shots and not putting as much pressure on his body, Rose took around the same percentage of shots from 3 feet and in during the 2015-16 season as he did in 2011, but converted 10% less of the time, showing how much he relied on his athleticism to get those shots off. Meanwhile, Rose only attempted 33% of his field goals from outside of 16 feet, whereas, throughout his career, he has taken 40% of his field goal attempts from out there. It should go without saying, that as you get closer to the rim, you rely more on your athleticism to get shots off, so why on earth is Rose acting like nothing has happened to his body? His body and athleticism have declined so much that last season, he dunked one whole time. 

Even though it won't be easy for Derrick Rose to do, he needs to drastically alter his game. Playing like nothing has happened to him is never going to get him back into All-Star form, but playing as a more conservative point guard might. Although Rose made his name as an athletic specimen, he needs to know what his strengths are at this point in his career. And for me at least, they look nothing like the ones that he had 5 long years ago.

The Derrick Rose of old is dead, but a new one could be reborn if Rose is willing to change the style of game that made him a household name. 

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