It's been fun to really break down Derrick Rose the player since the Knicks acquired the former NBA MVP in June just prior to free agency. It's clear that he has fans marking their respective calendars in great anticipation for Oct. 25 in Cleveland.
The numbers don't support Rose as a "willing passer," a term that has taken meaning in the NBA replacing "ball hog," but when you dig a little deeper the highlights suggest that Rose is willing to find the open man. Plugging him in the "modern triangle" that the Knicks will be implementing under Jeff Hornacek could create more passing opportunities.
Derrick Rose is an extremely underrated and willing passer. I think we're going to see a TRUE point guard this year.https://t.co/aaCL0lYugD- NYK Insider (@NykInsider) August 28, 2016
Since his 2011 MVP season, Rose has only averaged over seven assists per game once, and that was in just 39 games before his devastating knee injury in 2012. Since then he's been much more reliant on scoring and in the 121 games following his major surgery Rose has never averaged more than 5.9 assists per 36 minutes according to Basketball-Reference.com.
I'm not sure I'm buying the idea that Rose is a ball hog as much as he's not willing to pass to players who aren't great shooters. Why pass to below average three point shooters when you can explode to the basket to try to make a play? I think that's been the same thinking Carmelo Anthony has had over the past few seasons in New York. To be fair, that's a superstar's mentality. Of all the people I've talked to in and around the NBA regarding Rose, there seems to be one common theme surrounding him: stubbornness.
"It's far less about his physical abilities. From what I've seen he's pretty close to being the guy with the explosiveness of 2011," one NBA scout recently told me. "He's just not any good off the ball and when he gets it he feels like he has to attack. When defenses adjust he stubbornly sticks with it. He has to move it."
Moving the ball is much easier when you have confidence players will make open shots. Rose has had little issue passing the ball to the likes of Mike Dunleavy over the years. This is exactly where the Knicks season lies in the balance and why Rose's future is still very much uncertain. When you look at the Knicks roster it's filled with players who are adept at being effective without the ball, Anthony aside. Courtney Lee, Kristaps Porzingis, Lance Thomas and Joakim Noah all can be effective, efficient and productive without the basketball and they are very capable with it.
How Rose manages touches for Anthony will be critical as to how quickly he gets up to speed with the offensive philosophy, which will be predicated on pushing the ball in transition for early scoring attempts followed by secondary half court sets.
This bodes well for Porzingis in particular, who you'd expect to play a ton of pick-and-roll with Rose in those secondary situations and if Pau Gasol's effectiveness is any indicator then Porzinigis should get a ton of open looks. In 2015-16 Rose assisted on 100 of Gasol's 319 assisted made Field Goals and the vast majority of those were mid-range jump shots and layups according to NBA Stats.
It obviously wasn't all sunshine and rainbows in The Windy City last year. Perhaps the biggest factor behind the Bulls missing the playoffs last year was injuries and not just to Noah. Losing Dunleavy severely impacted the team's spot shooting and it's a role that the Knicks hope Lee, Thomas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas can fill in a similar manner to Dunleavy. Having players to kick out to should allow Rose to make better decisions off of drives, something he continues to do at an elite NBA level and an element the Knicks have severely lacked since Phil Jackson took over the team in 2014.