Signing Derrick Rose is a bad idea for the Timberwolves.
I have no catchy or clever hook to begin this piece. Seeing news of the Rose signing is nearly impossible considering how his career has played out once his injuries began. In fact, signing Rose is such a bad idea that you don’t have to mention his rape trial to make a compelling argument against him.
Reconciling the reality of Derrick Rose in 2018 has been difficult for people who rooted for him in Chicago. He still means a lot to a lot of people. But 2011 was a long time ago and Rose is no longer an MVP-caliber player.
After returning to the court following multiple injury-plagued seasons, Rose has been traded twice. The first time was in July 2016 when he was sent to the Knicks along with Justin Holiday and a second-round pick in exchange for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez. This was, of course, after reportedly feuding with Jimmy Butler and now they’re teammates again.
The second time Rose was traded, he was a throw-in at February’s trade deadline when the Cavs shipped him to Utah, who promptly waived him. Rose has sat on the open market for weeks, waiting for someone to bite. Maybe it was because Rose was having another underwhelming season.
Maybe it was because he took time off this season to decide if he still wanted to play basketball. Rose has seemingly been questioning his basketball future since 2014 when he was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past,” when asked about sitting out games while recovering from injury.
Players get traded for a number of reasons but both the Bulls and the Cavaliers moved on from him within the past 18 months.
Without yet going into the numbers, there is little upside to this move already. But let’s look into what’s been happening and how this fit plays out.
When Tom Thibodeau was signing Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks and trading for Jimmy Butler, people jokingly called the team “The Minnesota Bulls.” At least those sentimental signings could be justified. Butler was coming off of an all-star season and is one of the best players in the league. Gibson was still an effective player in both Chicago and Oklahoma City. As for Brooks, it’s hard to have too many qualms about a third point guard who doesn’t have a history of being a distraction.
From 2009-12, Rose was sensational. He was an electric player who could get into the lane at will. If you gave him a step, he was getting to the basket. That’s why he became both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in this time. Rose averaged 21.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.8 rebounds on 46.4% shooting.
Since 2013, Rose has played just 207 games and has been a shell of his former self. He’s averaged 16.7 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.3 rebounds during this stretch. Considering he missed the entire 2013 season recovering from injury, he hasn’t played more than 66 games in a season since 2011. That’s seven years and several unfortunate injuries ago. He’s just not the player he used to be.
Anyone expecting Rose to turn back the clock to an MVP or all-star level — something we haven’t seen in six years — will be disappointed.
Did you know that 13 players have taken 1,000 or more 3-pointers and shot under 30 percent in NBA history? Of those 13, nine of them have shot worse than Rose. That means Rose has beat out the likes of sharpshooters like Charles Barkley (26.6 percent), Corey Brewer (28.0 percent), and Josh Smith (28.5 percent) with his paltry 29.7 career mark from deep. You can see the whole list here.
After shooting 34.0 percent from beyond the arc in 2014, Rose has shot just 27.5 percent since. Thirty-five percent was considered average in 2014 but that’s now increased to around 37 percent. Even at his best in the last five years, he would still be a below-average shooter by today’s standards.
Rose at least seems to be aware of this.
Since 2015, Rose has attempted just 16.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. That includes last season in New York when he shot 6.1 percent of his field goals from this range. The Knicks have been a low-volume shooting team in recent years, so this worked well. The Wolves don’t take many 3’s either. When Rose shares the floor with Andrew Wiggins and Butler this team may look like something from 1998.
You may be saying, “They can play Rose at the 2!” which is true but something Rose has seldom done. The most he’s ever played shooting guard was last season in New York when he spent 17 percent of his court time at the off-guard position. That also marked just the third time Rose had spent more than 10 percent of his time in any season at the position.
However, under Tom Thibodeau, Rose played 94 percent of his time at the point guard position. It doesn’t seem likely that Thibodeau is going to all of a sudden see Rose as more of an off-guard than a point.
Why does this matter? Because every other Wolves point guard has been better than Rose by assist percentage, win shares and box plus-minus. Even on a minimum deal, this means that he could take minutes away from Tyus Jones and even Aaron Brooks.
Brooks is 33 years old and heading towards the end of his career but still has 0.1 win shares this season while Rose has posted -0.1 wins shares. Win shares are used as a general synopsis because the best players wind up at the top of the lists and the worst at the bottom.
What’s concerning is what a bench of Rose would look like with Rose. He has used one-quarter of his team’s possessions when on the floor this season while carrying a meager 13.1 percent assist rate. If you don’t think Rose is going to step out on to the floor looking to prove he still has it, you may be a bit of an optimist. You need gunners like Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, and those types but too many is chaos.
The Timberwolves’ reserves need a player that can facilitate ball movement and run the offense. And when the team needs it, be able to hit a few shots. Tyus Jones does all of these things already, which makes the Rose addition befuddling. Not to mention that Jones is 23 years old and can improve while Rose has seemingly been spiraling towards the end of his career for five years.
Taking minutes from Jones or other prospects for Rose would be a mistake.
What you hope plays out is this. Rose comes on as an extra body, especially with Brooks dealing with a personal matter, but Jones still sees his regular minutes. Being a minimum deal, the Wolves only owe Rose $290K and have no commitment beyond this season. This way, Thibodeau can get this out of his system this season and move on to other options for the future.
I don’t know how you could expect more from him after the last few seasons. He has only played 16 games this season and none of them have happened in the last few weeks. With Rose on the floor, the Cavaliers were a -7.2 points worse as they formed one of the league’s worst defensive units. With Butler’s absence, the Wolves would have no safety nets for Rose, defensively.
Keeping Rose in a small role with no long-term commitment is best for both the player and the team. If Thibodeau believes that he can be an MVP-level performer this season and gives Rose too large of a role, the Wolves may be in trouble this season.