MVP Rose isn’t back, but Derrick 2.0 should be just fine with us

Image Credit: USA Today

Let’s start off with that. Regardless of Derrick Rose’s stats, minutes or games played since November 24, 2017, it’s still amazing to see him in the league after a very rough campaign that saw him be traded by the Cavs and immediately waived by the Utah Jazz. Rose would finally latch on with former coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota and experience a mini-explosion in the postseason (14 PPG), leaving both Rose fans and NBA fans, in general, wanting more. Needless to say… we’re getting more.

Some context would be beneficial to understanding my tweet back in October. In 11 games played leading up to the day that tweet was published, Rose was averaging 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 27 minutes per contest. These numbers may not be eye-popping and certainly don’t remind us of the 2010-11 NBA MVP, but they’re solid nonetheless. Then, Halloween night happened.

Rose dressed up as his MVP alter-ego on October 31, exploding for a career-high 50 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal and a block on an impressive display of shooting (19/31 from the field, 4/7 from deep). The game-clinching block was the icing on the cake for Rose as his teammates surrounded him with hugs and applause & the home crowd in Minnesota celebrated not only a win over the visiting Utah Jazz but a beyond vintage performance by the 30-year-old Rose. Posting a 28-point outing 11 days beforehand, we had experienced one flashback already. This game caused celebrities, NBA analysts and pundits alike to pose an important question: is Derrick Rose… back?

Notice how that question was phrased. Contrary to what many want to ask themselves, avoiding putting the “MVP” before “Derrick Rose” saves us a lot of headaches. At 30, it’s highly unlikely Rose returns to his MVP form. When you factor in how many injuries and subsequent surgeries he’s been through, it makes that possibility even less realistic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. You can still be a very good, or even great, player without being an MVP. This new version of Rose is something fans should embrace and look forward to watching, not one that they disregard and, in turn, call for the Rose of old.

Rose has played in 10 games since the 50 point barrage. Below is a table of Rose’s stats on the season, his numbers before October 31, his numbers after October 31 including the aforementioned game, and his numbers after October 31 excluding it. I have also excluded a game in which Rose played 5 minutes and exited due to a minor ankle injury. Playing in 11 games before Halloween and 10 since serves as a pretty good indication of how much he’s improved over the course of this season:

Season 19.5 3.6 4.6 0.49 0.48
Before 10/31 13.6 3.5 4.3 0.38 0.28
After 10/31 w/ 50 24.8 3.6 4.8 0.55 0.55
After 10/31 w/o 50 22 3.5 4.4 0.54 0.55

It appears that Rose’s career night didn’t sway his numbers nearly as much as most would expect. A difference of 2.8 PPG, 0.1 RPG and 0.4 APG and a grand total of 1% in the field goal department isn’t much. Instead of looking at the 50-point game as a stat booster (which has been disproven), look at it as a statement made by Rose: he’s here to stay.

The rebounds and assists remain generally the same throughout the table and are both solid numbers given Rose’s time running with the second unit, consistent playing time, etc. We’ve addressed points and have given the Memphis product props for finding his niche and becoming a go-to scorer on this Minnesota team. What’s shocking is the efficiency at which Rose has been able to put the ball in the basket from inside and outside the arc.

Rose’s 49.2% conversion rate from the field is a career high, just above what he posted nine years ago (48.9%). A career 45% shooter, this is a nice bonus to what was already an acceptable efficiency. Knocking down threes at a 48 percent clip currently has Rose ranked 4th among all NBA players. This is the same Derrick Rose who shoots a career 31% from deep when that number is rounded up and peaked from beyond the arc at 34% in a 10-games-played 2013-14 season. What he’s been able to do in the efficiency department after 10+ years in the league is nothing short of astonishing.

Per the Chicago Sun-Times, Rose’s rebirth isn’t something to be taken lightly.

“The way he’s getting ready for the game as far as working out, monitoring his body, taking care of himself, he’s a totally different person.” -Taj Gibson

“I think as he has gotten older, he has maybe added to his game.” -Tom Thibodeau

This isn’t to say Rose doesn’t have any flaws in his game still. His health is always going to be a concern. Sitting out just two of Minnesota’s 20 games thus far, the point guard is on pace to play in nearly 74 games this year. Let’s be conservative and make it 68-70. That would still be the most games Rose has appeared in since 2015-16 (66). Even in an area that’s worrisome… he’s improving.

Rose hasn’t been a good defender in years. His defensive rating of 107.3 currently ranks 7th out of his 11 seasons in the league (missed a full season with an ACL injury). Although that number isn’t even an average one, it’s the best effort Rose has put forth on the defensive end in more than two years. Among 43 guards to average at least 30 minutes per game this year, Rose ranks 24th in defensive rating. Again, even in an area that’s worrisome… he’s improving.

Like we talked about earlier in the article – MVP Rose isn’t coming back. The awards won’t come like they used to. Gone are the days in which Rose could score 30 on one end and clamp up an opposing star point guard on the other. Honestly speaking, though, the buck stops right about there in terms of what this finally healthy version Rose can’t do. Let’s do a final comparison – Rose this season vs. his last “full,” “healthy” season in 2016-17 with the Knicks:

2016-17 18 3.8 4.4 0.435 0.217 112.4 32.5
2018-19 19.5 3.6 4.6 0.492 0.478 107.3 30.2

The proof is in the pudding. On two fewer minutes per game, Rose is managing to match his rebound and assists numbers from a couple of years ago while improving his shooting percentages by nearly 6% and 26%, respectively. Defensively, he’s significantly better. To top it all off: Rose should play in at least as many games this year as he did in 2016-17 (64), but could easily surpass that total.

Playing in the highest percentage of his team’s games in years, durability concerns are being put on the back burner for the time being. Posting his best defensive numbers in years, Rose isn’t quite the dreadful defender he was once known as. Scoring at a near-20 PPG rate (and over that mark in his last 10 games), he’s proven to be capable of carrying some type of load on offense.

Transforming from being literally one of the worst three-point shooters in the league to currently being a top-five one, the countless hours of rehab, training and perseverance Rose has put in appear to finally be paying off. The sky may not be the limit for the 2018-19 Derrick Rose, but it’s pretty darn close.

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