As we rapidly approach the All-Star Break, now seems as good a time as any to check in with Derrick Rose’s latest comeback. Far too much time is spent wondering or discussing when Derrick Rose will “get back to his old level”. The fact of the matter is, Derrick is an older, more mature player now who has gone through several catastrophic seasons. We’ll never see 2010-11 Rose again and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What we can do instead is dig into the D-Rose we have now and see what we can learn.
Most talk surrounding Rose’s game (and there’s plenty of talk not about his game) this season has centered on how often he’s been shooting the three ball. The numbers unsurprisingly back this up. Rose is taking about 33% of his field goal attempts from distance this season, up from between 24-25% in 2010-12 (we’re going to ignore the numbers from Rose’s abbreviated 10 game season in 2013). While Derrick has very clearly had some hot and cold shooting streaks (he’s currently shooting net-seeking fireballs out of his hands from three), his three point percentage has averaged out to 32.2%. This is exactly on pace with Rose in 2010-11 and 2011-12, when he shot 33.2% and 31.2%, respectively, on bombs.
An uptick in threes isn’t surprising or necessarily discouraging for Rose’s game. Two major knee injuries were proof enough that his unconventional, aggressive playing style had to be altered in some way. The key is figuring out where the extra three point attempts are coming from.
We’ve established that Rose is taking threes about 9% more often this season. While most critics have argued that Rose needs to stop eschewing drives for jumpers, the reality is that his game has changed in more ways than just that (all statistics through basketball-reference).
Although Rose is shooting threes more, he’s cut down on long two point jumpers, infamous for being the most inefficient shot in the game. While nearly 20% of Rose’s shots came as long twos (from 16 feet to the three point line) in his MVP season, he took only 16% from that distance in 2011-12 and is down to a career low 14.2% this season. Trading out long two pointers for threes is one of the best changes a player can make to his game. In this aspect, more threes from Rose is exactly what the Bulls need.
The dagger long two will always be part of Derrick’s game, but the more he trades them out for threes, the more efficient he can be. This season, Rose has converted about 32% on shots from 10-16 feet, 16 feet to the three point line, and on threes. While one would expect him to improve on the shorter attempts, the numbers clearly show that swapping out mid-range jumpers for threes will benefit the Bulls greatly.
While the phasing out of long twos accounts for a chunk of Rose’s three pointers, a notable decrease in shots near the rim has yielded the rest. Around 30% of Rose’s shots came from there over his last two full seasons but he is only taking about 26% at the rim in 2014-15. Tom Thibodeau and Bulls fans alike want to see this number creep back toward 30%, but the reality is that it may not be in Derrick’s best interest to be that player anymore. He made 61.1% of such shots in 2010-11 and 58.2% in 2011-12, but he’s only converted on 54.2% this season. However, a new midrange weapon is worth keeping an eye on…
Amongst midrange shots, Rose’s percentages have largely stayed the same. He takes about 16% of his shots from 3-10 feet and 11% from 10-16. However, Rose has been absolutely killer in that 3-10 foot range, making 57% of his shots. There’s probably some noise in that sample, considering Rose shot 37% from there in 2010-11 and 45% in 2011-12, but it seems likely Rose’s floater has taken another step this season. Trading out barreling drives to the rim for five and seven foot floaters could be the change that helps Derrick reinvent his career.
It’s important to remember that these 35 or so games are still a pretty small sample. Still, the data shows us that Rose has made some subtle changes to his approach. As he continues to find himself and produce more consistently (hopefully), the new Derrick Rose could help take the Bulls to levels they never reached when he was MVP.