Needless to say, it was awesome seeing Derrick Rose perform at such a high level -- down the stretch, no less -- in Thursday night's signature win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. I hope, like, really truly hope, that we'll reach the point where Derrick Rose can play a good basketball game without needing a referendum to soak it all in. Then -- and only then -- will Derrick Rose truly be back.
Say what you will about Rose, but there's little doubt that the guy is still capable of being a difference maker. The Bulls don't have many of those. As much as things have changed, they've remained the same: Derrick Rose is still the engine that drives the Bulls.
The Good Late-Game Offense against the Thunder
For good reason, the Bulls pretty much went exclusively with Derrick Rose-Pau Gasol pick-and-rolls down the stretch against OKC. Rose was pressing forward, playing downhill. He often had defenders on their heels. With the ball in his hands, OKC feared Derrick Rose. Smartly, the Bulls relentlessly attacked Enes Kanter -- forcing him to switch out on Rose time-and-time again, rendering him hopeless on shots like these:
(LOVE the Rose bank-shot. He's got it down to an art-form at this point.)
I do think it's fair to wonder, though, how sustainable some of Rose's shot-making is. In general, his shots do seem to have a high degree of difficulty attached to them. But don't get me wrong, I love how Rose has pretty much lived in the paint this season. It's a massive upgrade over the Rose we saw last year. I just think it's valid to question whether Rose can consistently make difficult shots. He did it against OKC, but the other six games -- not so much.
Here's The Problem With Derrick Rose against the Timberwolves
OK, now on to the serious stuff. The Bulls have a very real problem with playing Derrick Rose late in games. Rose, undoubtedly, needs the ball in his hands down the stretch. I'm not saying this to create a stupid shouting match over whose team it is. I'm not saying this in an effort to over-inflate Rose's worth. And I'm not saying this because I wholeheartedly believe Derrick Rose can still be a great player in this league. I'm saying this because, as of right now, playing Derrick Rose off-the-ball late in games means teams aren't going to guard him. Like, at all.
This obviously isn't an off-ball example, and I'm actually fine with the shot itself, but it illustrates the grander issue regarding Rose: he can't shoot. I don't know how much of this comes back to his vision, I don't know where his conditioning is at. There's a lot of things still up in the air. All I know is the dude is flat broke with the jumper -- right now. Do I think he can improve? Hell yes. He's seemingly recognized his range is about 20-feet max, as reflected by just 13 percent of his shots this season being 3-pointers. And that's huge for the time being.
But here's the main issue with having Rose on the floor late in the game when he doesn't have the ball:
This is bad. If Rose is in Chicago, Ricky Rubio's out chilling in the suburbs or damn near Lake County. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Rubio was given free rein whenever Rose didn't have the ball, and it turns out playing 4-on-5 is really hard to do. Yes, the Bulls not scoring in overtime and going 1-for-their-final-20 is a bit of a fluke, but to be sure, Rose does nothing to help the team on offense if he's not handling the ball. In fact, he downright hurts them.
I don't know the solution, but the problem is clear as day. You can't bench Rose yet (at least I don't think). So Hoiberg's going to have to start running more sets and stop allowing ISO and/or pick-and-roll to dominate Chicago's late-game offense. Of course, if Rose can start knocking down some outside shots, this problem goes away. However, that just doesn't seem imminent. This is Fred Hoiberg's first real Xs and Os challenge. Let's see what he's got.