Free Agent Files: Derrick Rose

Free Agent Files: Derrick Rose

This is part one of Ashwin Ramnath’s Free Agent Files series, where he will be breaking down some of the more intriguing players on this summer’s market. He starts with Derrick Rose, the one-time MVP now searching for relevancy.


The Knicks dealt for Derrick Rose last summer, hoping he would provide the attacking perimeter presence they’ve lacked for years.  Rose provided that missing element, but his contributions outside of volume scoring left much to be desired.  Now a free agent, the Knicks must decide whether or not Rose’s penetration and scoring talent added enough to offset his shortcomings as a distributor and defender.

Here is a look at Rose’s 2016-17 numbers (click tables to enlarge).

Per Game:


Per 36:


While much time was spent discussing Rose’s poor fit in the Triangle, he had his most efficient scoring season by far since tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs.  Though no longer the high flying, rim rattling supernova that took the league by storm en route to becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history, he remains fully capable of getting to the rim, averaging 10.0 drives per game, 11th among all players in the league.

The former MVP did much of his damage attacking in transition – a long standing weakness for New York.

In just 2 dribbles, Rose is able to catch the ball on the turn at halfcourt and get to the rim after blowing past 2 defenders and contorting his body under and around Jimmy Butler for a layup.  Despite his numerous knee injuries and surgeries, Rose’s speed and agility remain elite. He was a serious open court threat for the Knicks, although his tunnel vision often resulted in forced shots when there were better options available.

In addition to transition pushes, Rose was able to get into the paint at will against set defenses. His lack of a three-point shot has always allowed defenders to give themselves a cushion, but it has never really mattered. Rose’s quick bursts and acceleration make him a threat to get to all the way to the cup in isolation.

Here he blows by Kawhi Leonard, the best perimeter defender in the league, by rocking him to sleep using a hesitation dribble before exploding to the rim.

Rose most frequently penetrated defenses as a pick-and-roll ball handler, which made up 38.9% of his scoring possessions.

He again uses the hesitation to get Marcus Smart to relax for a half second, which is all he needs to turn the corner before beating Amir Johnson to the rim for the layup.

He supplemented the threat of his forays to the rim with a well rounded mid-range game.  Rose was especially proficient from 16-23 feet where he shot 46.2% per Basketball Reference.


When opponents cut off the drive, like Austin Rivers does here, he’s able to easily create space and elevate for an in-rhythm jumper.  

After missing most of training camp and the preseason attending to a civil lawsuit (he was being sued for, and has since been completely cleared of rape allegations), it took Rose time to get into rhythm, and he shot just 43.8 percent from the field in October and November. He gradually improved his shooting percentages every month before peaking at a blistering 50.7 percent over his final 21 games of the season through February and March.

While Rose was able to improve his efficiency as the year went along, he did nothing to dispel the notion that he’s nothing more than a volume scorer at this stage. His playmaking left much to be desired as he averaged a paltry 4.4 assists over 32.5 minutes, despite playing alongside potent scoring forwards in Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

Among guards who started at least 30 games, Rose ranked 35th with just 4.9 assists per 36 minutes, a career low.

Rose’s reticence to share the ball irked players on his team. This included Porzingis, whose pick-and-pop game should have been a nightmare to defend in combination with Rose’s dribble penetration.  

Here, Rose’s penetration draws the attention of both defenders in a pick-and-roll, leaving KP wide open for a spot up 3. Plays like this should have been a staple, but unfortunately were a rarity as Rose too often chose to call his own number.  

His defensive effort, if it can really be called that, was far worse.  Rose has the speed and agility to be an effective defender at the very least, but he turned in a worse defensive season than lead-footed old-man Jose Calderon. His nonchalance in getting back in transition was infuriating to watch. The lack of fight he showed getting over screens at the point of attack and recover to his man was inexcusable. These low-energy plays created trickle down effects that doomed the Knicks’ defense all season.  

John Wall is a tough cover.  He’s an even tougher cover when you press up on him way beyond the arc like he’s Steph Curry and then make zero effort to fight over a ball screen. He’s a damn-near impossible cover when you get burnt in the same fashion twice on the same possession.

Point guard defense is really hard with the sheer talent all around the NBA at the position. It’s not even clear how valuable an elite point guard defender is anymore, with pick-and-roll’s prevalence across the league and the switching it necessitates. The popularity of switch-heavy defensive schemes speaks to this, but regardless of a team’s approach, your point guard needs to give an honest effort in order to have a chance.

This isn’t really a dishonest effort – it’s an honest indifference. Rose’s poor fundamentals are on show here as he fails to get in a defensive stance and is caught standing upright, but the outright apathy is startling.  A player with his physical abilities shouldn’t be getting burnt to a crisp by a Seth Curry crossover from a standstill isolation.  

After Phil Jackson’s public proclamations of a desire to find energetic two way players capable of playing pressure defense—demands which are antithetical to what Rose has been—it’s hard to envision Rose returning to the Knicks, other than on the most team-friendly terms which are unlikely to appeal to him. For his part, Rose has said winning is his priority in choosing his next destination, not money.  If we’re to take him at his word, that takes the Knicks out of the equation entirely.  

So where would Rose fit?

At this stage in his career, Rose is best suited to operate as a sixth man. He would provide a dynamic scoring punch when the starters rest, and his weaknesses as a distributor and defender would be minimized against reserve units.

It’s hard to know whether Rose’s ego would allow him to make that switch, but if joining a winning team is what’s most important to him then he needs to come to grips with this: Most playoff teams have better starting point guards. If he were to accept a bench role, he would be a true weapon in any team’s arsenal. His ability to attack off the bounce provides heightened value in the playoffs, where improvisational offense is at a premium.

Rose’s extensive injury history, playmaking and defensive deficiencies, randomly going AWOL last season without any explanation, potential salary demands and off-court incidents could all limit interest from teams this summer. Perhaps a tepid free agent market gets him to embrace a potential future filled with perennial Sixth Man of the Year Awards.  

Rose can still be a valuable player in the right situation. That situation isn’t with the Knicks.


Ashwin Ramnath is an NBA writer for Bballbreakdown, and is the founder of Knicksed and Bruised. He’s also a contributing writer at Low Post Gazette. You can follow him on twitter @shwinnypoohNBA.