Derrick Rose and the 'Kobe Assist'

Kevin C. Cox

This piece at Grantland tore up the basketblogosphere Thursday. Kirk Goldsberry has been painstakingly tracking where+how shots are rebounded, and looking for the value in a missed shot. Essentially, teams can convert high-percentage tip-in opportunities in the case of a miss, and instead of giving all the credit to the rebounder, thinking how that opportunity relates to the more traditional 'assist' from a teammate. It's buzzy title is 'The Kobe Assist'.

As a Bulls fan, one can remember much anecdotal evidence of Derrick Rose's shots generating the same effect. So it's not surprising that Rose's name is mentioned in the article.

consider the cases of Elton Brand and Derrick Rose. Conventional wisdom suggests Elton Brand is a better mid-range shooter than Derrick Rose. Over the last two seasons Elton Brand made 381 out of his 782 mid-range jumpers (49 percent). This is really impressive because as a whole the league shoots only 38 percent from mid-range. During the same window, Derrick Rose made 294 of his 724 mid-range shots (41 percent), which isn't bad, but it's much closer to average than to elite. Again, field goal percentage does not tell the whole story. The Bulls rebounded 152 of Rose's 430 misses (35 percent), while the Sixers rebounded only 63 of Brand's 401 misses (16 percent). Looking at these shots through another lens, 62 percent of Rose's mid-range shots result in points or a fresh possession for the Bulls. For Brand, 57 percent of his mid-range shots result in points or a fresh possession for the Sixers. Which is better?

The Rose-Brand comparison suggests that by appending offensive rebounding rate or put-back rate to field goal percentage we can more accurately assess a shot's true value. Every time a shot is released, a potential change of possession gets its wings. An additional reason close-range shots are more effective than mid-range shots is that, when missed, they are rebounded by the offensive team at much higher rates; in other words, they kill possessions at lower rates than jump shots.

There's a lot more there that I probably haven't fully digested, let alone applied to the Bulls. The Bulls were actually a slightly better (or more like 'consistently excellent') offensive rebounding team when Rose was off the court last year, though that doesn't factor in the possibly better-percentage looks from a Rose miss as opposed to from another player.

In this Rose-less season, the Bulls are down a couple percentage points in offensive rebound rate, falling from the best in the league to 6th overall. Losing Omer Asik hurts that cause of course, but there is very likely a factor where the defense not having to rush to help on Derrick Rose means they're more likely to help box-out the Bulls frontcourt.

One particular player whose offensive rebounding has dipped this season is Joakim Noah, who after seeing an increase the past 3 seasons is now at a career low in that category (same with defensive rebounding, too). Noah did show to be a slightly less productive rebounder when Rose was off the court last season, but it's not really conclusive.

It may be more that anything because Noah is being asked to do more playmaking in the high post, another residual affect of the Rose injury. And it may not be a coincidence that Carlos Boozer's rebounding is up this season.

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