The Chicago Bulls should trade Derrick Rose. Yes, that’s right – the same home-grown star who has captured many an imagination over the years and dominated the league just five years ago. They should trade him for someone younger and with more potential, and most importantly trade in a guy who doesn’t live on another planet or in a world of delusion.
Rose is an NBA MVP, winning the award in 2011 and in the process becoming the youngest winner of the award in NBA history. Normally the MVP rewards the best player in the league for that year and very rarely do the judges get it wrong. Sure, there is the odd lifetime achievement award (see Karl Malone in 1997 and/or 1999) or some that leave you scratching your head (see Steve Nash ahead of Shaquille O’Neal in 2005 and LeBron James in 2006) but generally the MVP winner is the most deserving player.
And so it was in 2011, as the former #1 draft pick lead his hometown to the top seed in the Eastern Conference averaging 25.0 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as they posted a 60-22 record. Three seasons into his NBA career, he was bordering on mega-stardom. Alarm bells were raised in the post-season where he become inefficient and couldn’t handle James or the Heat, but he walked away from a season knowing he could only get better unless something unexpected took place.
Fast forward to the next season and queue the unexpected as it all started falling apart for Rose. After signing a 5 year, $94m contract he was ravaged by injuries and played just 39 games. He entered the playoffs fit but he injured his knee in the very first game of the playoffs in a crippling blow to Rose and the Bulls.
He then sat out the entire season in 2012-13, generating plenty of discussion as he was cleared to play nearing the playoffs but chose not to. The following season he injured his other knee just 10 games into the season. At the young age of 25, Rose looked destined to be the answer to a trivia quiz and never get to realise his full potential.
While he played 51 games last season (the most he had played since his MVP season), Rose was far from his normal self after yet another injury to his right knee. In the last week at training camp, he copped a stray elbow and fractured his orbital bone but looks likely to be ready for the start of the regular season, body and health pending.
Rewind five years and Rose was one of the hottest commodities in the league. Now he now finds himself in the middle group of NBA point guards. Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley, Eric Bledsoe, Tony Parker and Goran Dragic are all better players as we speak while Boston (Isaiah Thomas), Toronto (Kyle Lowry) and Phoenix (Brandon Knight) would all baulk at straight swaps. That makes thirteen players who are at least as good as a former MVP who has just turned 27.
Granted, it’s easy to point to the injury as the main factor in Rose’s decline but a deeper dive highlights a number of other concerns. Firstly, he was far from being a good defender when the fully-fit MVP and remains a weakness at that end of the floor. Playing alongside an elite defender in Jimmy Butler helps cover that deficiency to an extent, but it remains an issue that Rose may never address.
Secondly, his shooting percentage has never been a strength. Early in his career he relied on his explosiveness to attack the ring and deflect attention from his below average jump-shot. Given his knees will never likely be the same and his explosiveness is a thing of the past, one struggles to have confidence in a guy who has just scraped 40% field goal shooting over the last three seasons.
And perhaps most importantly, there is an issue with the way Rose comes across in the media and seemingly as a teammate. He either truly believes some of the words sprouting from his mouth, or is getting very poor advice.
Take his recent press conference where he was discussing an extremely sensitive personal lawsuit. Credit Rose, he didn’t shy away from the questioning but then turned his answer into a free agent pitch, talking about how he was looking forward to joining the free-agent spoils of the upcoming new collective bargaining agreement. No-one begrudges the right of any professional athlete to make the most of their career and set their family up for life, over and over again. But Rose has earnt the best part of $300m from his Adidas endorsement and playing career so for him to comment on financial security was either moronic, ill-advised or both.
Heading back on-court and the harsh truth is that in 2015, Derrick Rose is the third option on a Bulls team that goes as Butler and Pau Gasol go. Butler is one of the league’s most impressive two-way stars and looks to have a more complete game than Rose ever had, while Gasol is a future Hall-of-Famer still playing at an incredibly high level. Whether he likes it or not, Rose is a complementary piece much in the way Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic are. Whether his ego can handle that or not remains to be seen, but Chicago haven’t been much worse off with journeymen Aaron Brooks or Kirk Hinrich at point guard of recent times.
As much as the Bulls seem to have missed Rose over the last four injury-ravaged seasons, they have a 113-80 record without him and an 80-39 record with him in uniform. They have developed one of the better defences in the league under former coach Tom Thibodeau centred on Noah and Butler, and will hope Rose can come back and contribute at that end of the floor. Thibodeau grew tired with Rose’s continual injury concerns:
Should Rose stay in Chicago he will need to adjust his game; Hoiberg has the reputation of being more offensively-minded than his predecessor and will attempt to have Rose play as an efficient, pure point guard. For those who haven’t seen Rose play without injury, think the 2011 version of Russell Westbrook. Today’s version needs to model his game on someone like Conley or even Parker and realising that it is best for the Bulls, HIS Bulls that he no longer be THE MAN.
Like many a professional athlete, Rose talks best when talking about himself. When he talks about what he was and what he wants to get back to, it is admirable but unrealistic. That D.Rose is a distant memory, and he needs to swallow his pride and play a supporting role to help his team contend for a championship, which we assume is his sole goal. Based on exposed form and the attitude he conveys, that won’t happen so the Bulls are best shopping him around and looking to get some value out of their former MVP. Whether they do it or not remains to be seen.