Scoring Does Not Equate to Good Offense: A Derrick Rose Story
Somewhat lost within the tufts of smoke emanating from the blazing ruin of the New York Knicks’ season is last summer’s defining addition, Derrick Rose.
This is not written ironically, as it could have been on Jan. 9, when Rose actually went missing. It’s more about Rose’s play, his production and how misleadingly empty it is in the grand scheme.
Sensible people won’t just look at his 17.6 points and 4.5 assists per game on 45.7 percent shooting, his best since 2009-10, and declare this season a success—or his MVP-form-that-wasn’t reborn. But as team president Phil Jackson continues his attempts to turn Carmelo Anthony into a scapegoat for the foundering Knicks, it’s easy to forget Rose hasn’t been great.
Or even good.
Not only does he profile as a nuclear negative on both offense and defense, according to NBA Math’s total points added (TPA), but no player on the Knicks has a worse cumulative score. Rose’s minus-67.16 TPA is 7.49 points lower than Brandon Jennings’ second-worst minus-59.67, and 59.93 points worse than the minus-7.23 posted by Anthony, New York’s supposed problem child.
Getting to the root of Rose’s transgressions is difficult. The Knicks’ offensive rating falls off a cliff whenever he takes a seat, and they average more points per 100 possessions when he plays without Melo (115.6) than they do during No. 7’s solo acts (106.4), according to nbawowy.com.
Still, even when you remove Rose’s vapid defense from consideration, there’s too much noise in those numbers to ascribe him genuine value. And some of those within the Knicks’ locker room appear to sense it.
“We don’t have that trust,” Kristaps Porzingis said following a Feb. 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, per ESPN.com’s Ian Begley. “Some games we do, some games we don’t. Some games we have that second effort, some games we don’t, like today…It’s kind of everybody for [themselves] a lot of times—both ends of the floor.”
“When someone drives in there, all the way to the basket, they have to start to thinking where’s my teammates?’’ head coach Jeff Hornacek added before a Feb. 8 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, via the New York Post’s Marc Berman. “If they’re standing wide open in the corner and someone drives and shoots over two guys, they’ll do the same thing. Part of it is sacrificing some of your game for the good of the team and not care too much about what they’re getting and not getting. If you have that attitude it’s a losing attitude.”
It was always going to be tough for the Knicks to get Rose, a mediocre playmaker at his peak, to defer during a contract year. He equates scoring to status, and it shows.
The Knicks’ assist percentage drops by 7.4 points whenever Rose is in the lineup. Ball movement and assists don’t necessarily portend superior offense—ask the Toronto Raptors—but this plunge is still unbecoming of a useful starting point guard:
More than one-third of the league’s primary floor generals “lower” their team’s assist percentage—the reasons for which vary. Some play alongside more shot creators (Reggie Jackson in Detroit), whiles others are first and foremost tasked with chasing their own looks (Isaiah Thomas in Boston).
But Rose’s negative assist differential is the absolute worst among starting point guards, even though he plays beside lethal complementary shooters in Courtney Lee, Kristaps Porzingis and, yes, Anthony. And for what it’s worth, of the 11 point guards who adversely impact their team’s assist rate, only two are repping top-10 offenses (Tony Parker and Thomas).
Any passes Rose does make are often filler deferrals. He has the second-highest usage rate on the Knicks (26.2); the ball is in his hands so much he enjoys a default boon.
Rose is one of 41 players averaging 45 or more passes per game through at least 40 appearances. He ranks 31st in adjusted assist-to-pass ratio (11.2)—the percentage of a player’s passes that are assists, hockey assists or result in free throws:
Here’s the thing: Of the 10 players behind him, Darren Collison is the only guard. The rest are bigs: Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Vucevic, Anthony Davis, Trevor Booker, Taj Gibson, Marvin Williams and Rudy Gobert—players who aren’t cast as primary distributors.
Which, fine. The Knicks have one of the five worst effective field-goal clips in the league. Ditto for their free-throw rate. They don’t hit shots. That’s not on Rose. All he can do is give those around him the opportunity.
Except, he doesn’t excel there either.
Among the 27 players clearing 50 passes per game in 40 or more outings, Rose’s 9.4 potential assists check in at 24th. Collison is once again the only guard behind him. For added context: Al Horford is averaging 9.5 possible dimes while posting a significantly lower usage rate (20.8) and burning through noticeably fewer passes.
Too many of Rose’s team-leading 10.3 drives per game end up looking like this, with him ignoring open shooters or roving bigs:
It’s fine if you think Rose is about to put down an easy layup, negating the need for a kick-out over defenders to Anthony or Porzingis. It’s also wrong.
As Rose has the tendency to do, he makes this play far more complicated than it needs to be, eschewing contact and going for the uber-difficult reverse:
And if he’s not needlessly going up and under, he’s switching hands:
Or taking off too early:
What Rose is supposed to do well, what he appears to do well, he doesn’t actually do well. Too much about his game is disingenuous to his ultimate goal: getting to the basket or drawing a foul. You won’t receive the benefit of the doubt on whistles when you prematurely leave your feet, and avoiding contact via reverses and hand-switching is a good way to destroy your efficiency.
Not surprisingly, Rose has one of the five worst free-throw rates of anyone jacking 15 or more shots per game. And his accuracy around the rim is in the crapper. Fifty-seven players have attempted at least 200 shots in the restricted area; his 53.8 percent clip places 55th, in front of only Jeff Teague and Tony freaking Allen:
Oh, and for good measure, Rose is recording a lower assist rate on drives (6.3) than Lou Williams (7.3). (But, yeah, Melo is the one impeding Porzingis’ growth.)
Bake in the complete absence of a three-point shot (24.1 percent on low volume this year), a relative inability to move in meaningful ways off the ball and total disinterest on the defensive end, and you start to understand why the Knicks are where they are.
They traded for a starting point guard who’s incapable of helping them win basketball games.
Follow Dan on Twitter @danfavale.