11/28/2018 1 Comment
By: Dan Slaubaugh
12 points. Four assists. 10 points in the fourth quarter. Six of 13 from the field. That is the stat line from Derrick Rose’s latest impressive performance, largely contributing to the Wolves’ sixth win in their last eight games, this time over the Cleveland Cavaliers. This effort fits well amongst the abundance of excellent performances Rose has given Minnesota this season. A season in which he is making a strong, albeit early, case for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
Many, including myself, doubted the late-season signing of Rose last year. He was coming off two forgettable seasons in New York and Cleveland, leaving each team for a considerable stretch of time during the season to attend personal matters. With poor shooting numbers, shoddy defense, and a history of being a distraction off the court, I believed there were no areas where he could legitimately serve useful to the Wolves.
Fast forward eight months: Rose has made believers out of nearly all of us. And if he hasn’t, well, then you’re not watching close enough.
At age 30, Rose came into the 2018-19 season fresh off a stellar playoff series against the Houston Rockets where he averaged 14.2 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 70 percent (7-for-10) from deep. He was arguably the most consistent Wolf in the playoffs.
This season, Rose has shown us all that last year’s stellar playoff performance was no fluke.
Through 21 games, the former MVP is having one of the most impressive comeback seasons in recent memory. He’s averaging 19.1 points, 4.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game off the bench. He's been efficient in doing it as well, shooting a career-high 49.1 percent shooting from the field, draining threes like nobody’s business at a 46.4 percent clip (fifth best in NBA), and hitting an impressive 85.5 percent of his free throws. Rose leads all bench players in the NBA in scoring and he’s fourth in assists with a high usage rating of 24.3 percent.
The combination makes Rose the best playmaking guard on the Wolves’ roster. Per stats.nba.com, the Wolves have an offensive rating of 111.4 and a defensive rating of 107.4 when he’s in the lineup. When he sits the Wolves post a 98.2 offensive rating and a 107.4 defensive rating. Basically, per 100 possessions the Wolves are 13.6 points better with Rose on the floor than off. And offensively, they’ve been 13.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, basically the difference between the Warriors and Bulls in offensive efficiency.
Those numbers are a big reason why Rose, who has also started five games for the Wolves that included a 50-point effort against the Jazz at home, has been so valuable to the post-Jimmy Butler Timberwolves. He’s always been a volume scorer, but he’s taken his game to another level this season (compared to past seasons) by putting a new-look, rejuvenated Wolves team on his back as the number two scoring option.
Currently signed to a one-year, $2.1 million deal, Rose has been one of the best bargains in the NBA. And after his first healthy off-season in four years, Rose told Marc. J Spears of The Undefeated in October he is finally in a “great space” mentally, physically and basketball-wise.
“I am in year 11 now. I tore my ACL in my third year. Most guys would have been retired. Financially, I have saved my money. It’s all about the love. I still feel like I can hoop.”
It’s early, but all signs point towards he still can, and it’s made him a likely trade target for contenders looking to upgrade near the trade deadline. Of course, barring a mid-season firing, Tom Thibodeau would have to be the one to pull the trigger on a Rose deal. And, well, he knows he’s coaching for his job. Rose helps the team right now, so unless Rose requests a trade like Jimmy (which he very likely won’t), Thibodeau will likely hold onto him for the entirety of the season unless an offer comes his way that even he can’t refuse. This would open the possibility for Thibs, if he keeps his job, to try to convince the former MVP to re-sign in Minnesota on a multi-year deal.
For now, Rose is showing why he should be the early front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year Award -- thriving in a sixth man role under Thibodeau and giving the upstart Timberwolves a much-needed veteran presence and reliable offensive weapon on a nightly basis.
"When I was younger I wanted to win MVP. This year, coming off the bench my goal is to win Sixth Man of the Year", Rose told Dennis Scott of NBA TV last month.
So far, that goal seems more than within reach.