The numbers read 14.7 points, 4.5 assists (4.2 turnovers), 2.8 rebounds and 33 percent shooting (25 percent from deep); the second-highest usage rate of his career (30.6 percent) while having the lowest offensive rating of his career with 82 points per 100 plays (averaged 110 ORtg in his first four seasons) while contributing negative 0.3 win shares to his team. After all the hype, after all the commercials, after all the talk, this is what Derrick Rose has produced so far this season, a far cry from the superstar we were all accustomed to seeing… the only person to win MVP in the last five seasons besides LeBron James. Didn’t Rose sit out the entire season to avoid exactly what is happening? What is wrong with Rose, why aren’t things going as planned? Let’s discuss why Rose’s return is off to a slippery start, but also why fans in the Windy City shouldn’t overreact to Rose’s slow start.
The first part of diagnosing Rose’s struggles is to look at exactly where he is struggling. Let’s take a quick look at his shot chart from this season so far:
Rose is only shooting 33 percent so far this season, which is extremely low for a player that has shot 46 percent for his career. Rose has never been a solid three-point shooter, but it is something he has worked on throughout his young career. His 25 percent shooting from deep this season can be misleading, however. As shown on this shot chart, Rose is shooting 43 percent from the right corner, center and left wing combined, which is a solid percentage (not counting that midcourt heave). However, Rose has missed all of his nine attempts from the right wing, which has severely taken down his percentage. Before I discuss anything further, I want to pull up a shot chart from Rose’s last full season in 2011-2012.
To stay with the three-point shooting, Rose has never been accurate from the right wing, so while his 0-9 mark this season is disappointing, it’s not a big concern considering he only shot 29.3 percent from the right wing in 2011-2012. Rose is only a 31 percent shooter lifetime from deep, so his poor three-point shooting shouldn’t be too alarming.
However, there is one huge thing that jumped out at me when I was dissecting these charts. When I think about Derrick Rose as a player, I imagine a fearless player that charges to the rack with reckless abandon, but with an extraordinary ability to finish at the rim. When looking at his shot chart from this year, I noticed that Rose is only finishing 38.5 percent of his attempts at the rim, which his a serious regression from his 55 percent shooting at the rim in the 2011-2012 season. So, why is Rose’s finishing ability down almost 20 percent since his last full season in 2011-2012? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a hunch (via The Chicago Sun-Times): “I’ll say this: I don’t know of anyone who drives as hard as he does. Nor as fast as he does. And I think sometimes he’s penalized for being a nice guy. I’ll leave it at that.”
Basically, Thibodeau is attributing Rose’s apparent weakness at finishing this season to the guys in the zebra striped shirts. Well, this substance may have some sauce to it. Rose has been to the line a total of 20 times this season (making 18), averaging about 3.3 attempts per game while fellow “nice” guys like Kevin Love and Kevin Durant have been to the line 49 and 70 times respectively. Rose may not be getting the “superstar” calls he’s accustomed too, but there’s no way I’m buying this as the reason Rose’s finishing ability has dropped. I’ve refereed basketball personally for a few years and it’s extremely easy to tell the difference between a player getting fouled and a player that drives to the rim recklessly that creates contact on his own.
Simply, Rose is pressing — a lot. Anyone that has watched Rose this season can see this. On numerous occasions Rose has charged to the basket 1-on-3 or 1-on-4, to no avail and without a foul call. Rose wants to be great and no one can hate on him for that, but it will take time to become adjusted to the speed of an NBA game again. No amount of practices or drills can compare to the rigors of a full 48-minute game and this is exactly what we see Derrick Rose going through every night. Maybe the most evident part of this was when Norris Cole left Derrick Rose on the floor during his first game back in over a year from his torn ACL: