Derrick Rose Now Gets Superstar Calls
You didn't need to have John Hollinger's astronaut computer at your side to correctly identify Derrick Rose's weaknesses heading into Year Three: poor outside shooting, poor defense, not enough free throw attempts.
Rose crossed out the first problem immediately: he told us in the off-season he'd be able to shoot three's, and he came out doing just that. Rose hit 32 three's in his first two years combined; he's already got 78 in 49 games this season, and is connecting on them at a 36.5 percent clip. That qualifies as improvement, and it's stark enough to end with an exclamation point. The defensive issue is trickier -- the human eye can always be deceiving, and the numbers that try to capture performance on the other end of the court aren't easily accessible or without flaw. Anecdotally, Rose's defense certainly looks much improved since Vinny Del Negro's two-year internship expired, and the team stats (even sans Noah) back it up. We learned recently that the individual metrics are on-board now, too. Cross another off the list: Derrick Rose is no longer a bystander on defense.
The final obstacle was those damn free throw attempts. Hollinger led the charge, writing that it was keeping Rose from becoming an elite player. I found that assessment a bit laughable, though I'm sure highlighting team wins and significant jumps in layman statistics like points per game and assists per game would make one no better than those who first rejected "MoneyBall". This isn't meant to say that Hollinger is a be-all-end-all for "right vs. wrong", or even that his niche in the advanced basketball statistics community is the most far-reaching. "MoneyBall" was the word of God; the upper-basketball stats that a lot of different people are exploring recently seems more like a way to open new avenues for debate.
When the stat people (stat nerds!) talk, though, I'll surely listen. Today at Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton writes that Derrick Rose has been getting to the line much more frequently in the last two months. He uses fancy numbers and everything to back it up. The entire thing is worth a read.
Pelton checked Hoop Data's shot-location numbers,and concluded that this isn't a case of Rose getting to the rim more often: his attempts from in close have actually declined since the December 10 game we're using as a starting point. Instead, Rose's improvement in free throw attempts likely comes from the fact that he's now getting the league's superstar treatment. The refs wouldn't give D. Rose a borderline call before; lately, they have been.
It seems like those days are gone. Derrick Rose shoots a respectable amount of free throws now. He also drains three's and D's up. I'm not terribly passionate about the MVP debate, but if you want delve into it, look no further than the major improvements he's made in his three biggest areas of weakness. Credit inner motivation and off-season hustle, credit Thibs, credit the rest of the league catching up with what Chicago has known for a long time.
Bill Simmons used to like to write about players taking The Jump, and Rose has certainly made it this year. When Derrick Rose's career is over, it's likely that we'll pinpoint Year Three as the most vital of his career. This isn't meant as a playoff rallying cry, or even a "Bring it on, Boston and Miami" challenge. I'm just saying: enjoy this. It's awesome to watch, and we're so, so fortunate that it's happening in front of us.