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Was Derrick Rose actually a better player this season?

There were some highs and some lows for Rose in 2016. He played more games than in the last three seasons combined, but was he a better player?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Following the career of Derrick Rose can give one a headache.

What started off as an extremely promising career: rookie of the year, 36points and 11 assists against the defending champion Celtics in his first playoff game (seriously, this game is worth a second look), all star in his second season, and youngest MVP in NBA history. It all changed after the ACL tear.

Rose has not been the same player since that career altering injury, but at least this year, Rose was able to stay on the court. Rose played more games this season than the past three seasons combined. He played with double vision throughout many of those games, but at least he was on the court.

However, his season was definitely a mixed bag. Was Rose a better or worse player this season than he was last season? What does the future hold for Derrick? These are not easy questions to answer definitively, but let's look at the good and the bad, and then you can decide for yourself.

The Good

I could definitely make the argument that Derrick Rose had a better season in 2016. The primary reason is that Rose was free from major injury. While breaking the orbital bone in his face was definitely a setback, no knee injuries for Rose was a big step forward. It seemed that Rose mostly sat out due to our old friend "General Soreness". So, while there were some bumps and bruises along the way, Rose was able to stay on the court. However, there were more reasons than simply health that lead me to believe that Rose was a better player this season.

Rose's shot selection was fantastic this season.


This is Rose's shot chart from last season. Ignore all the red  (hint: Rose's shooting percentages weren't great) and focus on the DST percentages. Those tell you what percentage of Rose's shots came from each range. Almost one-third of Rose's shots came from three point territory last season. Throw in another quarter of his shots from midrange, and you've got a player that doesn't shoot well taking lots of shots from long range.


This was Rose's chart from this season. Still lots of red, but check out the distribution. Only about 14% of Rose's shots came from three point territory. While he still took plenty from midrange, he had tons of attempts at the rim as well. Rose cut his 3PA per game in half. That's an amazing change for a guy that had convinced himself that he was a good shooter. Rose had plenty of plays like this one:

Where Rose passes up a wide open three and simply takes it hard to the rim. His shot selection was definitely an underrated improvement in his game.

In my opinion, Rose's shot selection lead to him being a more efficient scorer this year. The numbers will tell you I'm lying (47.9 TS% this year to 49.3 TS% last year), but hear me out. I think Rose supporters and haters alike can both agree that Rose's vision problems lead to some major scoring issues early in the year. If we look at Rose's stats since January 1, the scoring numbers are solid. He put up 20.54 pts/36 min on 50.8TS%. Those are not spectacular numbers, but they are definitely better than last year. I think if Rose was used more in a way that utilized his strengths, those numbers could have been even better.

Finally, Rose turned the ball over less this year. His TOV% was down from 14.9% to 13.4%. I'm unsure as to whether this was a function of Rose focusing on turning the ball over less or just being asked to do a lot less in the offense.

Overall, I think Rose still looks like he could be a solid scorer if used appropriately. However, the improvements in shot selection and scoring may not have been enough to surpass some of the areas in which Rose regressed.

The Bad

Rose was a poor defender when he entered the league. Several years under Vinny Del Coacho didn't do much to help that. Then, Thibs had Rose looking like an above average defender during his MVP season. However, Rose's defense has been getting steadily worse since returning from injury. It's hard to truly tell whether his defense was actually worse this year, but I think there definitely signs that this was the case. Rose's blocks and steals were down a bit this year. Rose's defensive RPM was a -3.17. That was good for the 83rd ranked PG in the league (right behind Lillard and Irving). While vision may have hampered his offense, it should not have had a major effect on his defense. Rose was a -0.26 in defensive RPM last year. For a point guard, that's actually pretty solid. It would have had him as the #25 PG in the league, and 5 of the players above him played less than 20 MPG. Last year, he seemed to be average on defense, this year, Rose was mostly bad.

Rose's passing was pretty poor this year as well. In his all star seasons, Rose averaged over 6 assists per game, and even managed to average nearly 8 assists per game in his MVP season. While Rose was never a prolific passer, his passing seemed to improve each season. Rose's AST% was the lowest of his career this year, even lower than his rookie year. His AST/36 were way down as well. In general, Rose simply looked passive on offense. It often seemed as if he was either trying to take over with scoring or not contributing much at all.

Rose's FT attempts have been down since his ACL injury. However, this season was much worse than last for Rose. Rose got to the line 1.3 less times per 36 than last season. This definitely hurt Rose's ability to score the ball effectively.

The really hard part to quantify is whether or not the Bulls were better with Rose on the court versus off the court. It is also the crux of the argument about whether or not Rose was better or worse this year. First, Real Plus-Minus really hates Rose. RPM had him as the #81 PG in the league at -4.26. He's only ahead of Napier, Lawson, Mo Williams, and Rozier. Ouch. However, when looking at any of these all encompassing stats, we have to remember that they include his abysmal start to the year. Rose definitely got better as the year went on. That said, Rose's RPM rated him much better last year despite having a relatively inefficient scoring season. Despite Rose having a sub 50% TS season last year, RPM still rated him as a positive on the offensive end.

Another stat to look at is on/off court numbers. The Bulls were 0.6pts/100 better offensively with Rose off the court and a full 4 points better defensively with Rose off. Yikes. I tend to think that by the end of the season, the Bulls were definitely better offensively with Rose on, but way better off with Rose sitting for defensive purposes. Plus, it's hard not to be better offensively with Rose on the court when you look at the weak backups at the PG spot. Last season, the Bulls were about the same on both ends with Rose on or off the court. In short, I think Rose's abysmal defense and inability to contribute anything on offense when he wasn't scoring indicates that Rose actually was worse this season than last.

However, I can produce some silver lining. First, once Rose could actually see, his shooting was better than it's been in a long while. His short midrange game (10-16 feet) was the best it's been since his second year in the league. Rose's three point shooting in the new year was a respectable 33%. I think if Rose can keep his current shot selection and couple that with more respectable three point shooting, I think he can still score the ball effectively.

I think Rose spent most of the season figuring out what the heck Hoiberg wanted him to do. Rose, in my opinion, was criminally misused this season. Hoiberg coached the Bulls to the #23 offense in the league. While some of this falls on Rose's shoulders, as the coach, Hoiberg needed to find a way to use each player effectively, and he failed in that department. Under another coach, I think Rose has a much better season.

The Future

I think Rose can still be a solid player. He's obviously not worth his current contract, but I think if a coach could convince him to really focus on the defensive side of the ball, he could become a good player again. I also think that Rose needs to be put in a position to succeed on offense. While much of the standing around is Rose's own doing, when you are trying to get a ball dominant player to work better off the ball, you have to teach them what to do and when. The "offense" this season featured plenty of standing around from more than just Rose. Better coaching certainly could have lead to some better results for Rose and others.

I think with a full offseason of work and without any freaky eye injuries to start the season (oh, and with Rose playing for a new contract) Rose will have a solid 2016-17 if he continues to stay healthy. However, I'm not really sure we'll see a true resurgence from Rose in Chicago. He seems like someone that needs a change of scenery and some better coaching to get him playing like anywhere near an all star again. We saw flashes this season, but those flashes were too few and far between.