clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why it was the right time to trade Derrick Rose

the Bulls did a Rose deal because he was no longer was a big deal

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As I said in the immediate aftermath of hearing that Derrick Rose had been traded, the feeling wasn't so much dismay over the Rose Era ending (there will be more on that at this page soon enough) as it was surprise over the Bulls making a proactive move. Though to be fair (ly critical), I'm not sure this truly ends the streak of the Bulls not making a team-improving trade since 2009. This is still somewhat of a dump, and we know the Bulls have shown an ability to do that in the past.

That said, it was a pleasant surprise all the same, because a Rose deal this summer made a lot of sense.

There was just no conceivable way the Bulls and Derrick Rose were going to agree on a new long-term contract. Too much history and baggage between both parties, with differing amounts of fault to be assigned but intractable complications all the same. They were eligible to negotiate an extension now, and it was telling but not surprising that we heard absolutely nothing on that front.

So with that in mind, why go through the circus of the "Derrick Rose contract year", an extended audition for the other 29 teams in the league? #DerrickRoseSaysStuff would be at its apex, but that's merely annoying. The on-court return wouldn't do much for the Bulls either.

I disagree with what seems to be a consensus among those covering the team that the motivation of a new huge contract (something Rose himself referenced last summer) would improve Rose's play. I figure instead it could just as easily motivate Rose to do more of what we saw last year: play just enough, and just well enough, to convince the league he was healthy. Take the 'general soreness' days as they come, don't exert too much (especially on defense), and don't get another surgery. Because: why would it be, now that he's now closer to that big payday, that he'd increase his risk? Why would he be less careful? In his mind, last season was a success, and given how free agency usually works in the NBA he's probably right: a big payday is coming as long as he doesn't suffer another injury.

None of this is necessarily bad or wrong on his part, but it speaks to the idea that Rose could no longer handle the heavy workload of being a star lead guard. He's not soft, his body literally can't take it. The best solution is likely to give Derrick more help, especially at the PG position. But even if that happened, doing so in Chicago means that MVP label never truly can disappear. It's much easier for Rose to make that transition into the next phase of his career on another team.

I think this also is the best 'breakup' scenario between Rose and the Bulls that could've happened. It's somewhat of an indignity to have to play for the Knicks, sure. But it's at least New York, I guess? And what would've been the alternative? If Rose played really well, it'd be unneeded pressure on both parties to re-sign him, which still wouldn't have happened since even a good season wouldn't mean the Bulls could trust another 4 or 5 of them. If Rose played poorly, it could've gotten real ugly quick, and then we'd be talking a buyout instead of a trade deadline move. He could've also gotten hurt again. If he stayed as 'meh' as he was much of last year....knowing their history, the Bulls would've probably just clandestinely bad-mouthed Rose to make themselves look better upon his exit, and maybe even toss in a low-ball contract offer to save face.

Jimmy Butler also clearly matters in this, and also is a reason why a deal is better now than 'seeing what happens'. We saw what happened, all of last season. And it's not just media made-up drama about their lack of off-court hangouts. They're two players who not only have a poor stylistic fit, but produce an untenable dynamic in terms of the team hierarchy. Rose, even if improved, still would've been battling Butler for shots and ballhandling duties, with the stigma of ‘Derrick Rose, face of the franchise' lingering over the situation. It wasn't impossible that things would've suddenly clicked, but why waste a season figuring it out, in this case where 'figuring it out' doesn't even change that Rose would exit after the season?

For better or for worse, the Thibs/Rose/Noah Bulls are done, and this is Jimmy Butler and Fred Hoiberg's team. But the demarcation point wasn't when Rose was dealt, it was last summer when both Hoiberg and Butler received 5-year contracts.

Now I happen to think it's for the worse. Butler and Hoiberg have their own problems, and we're not sure Hoiberg can actually coach. But having Derrick Rose for a lame-duck season was immaterial to that, potentially only holding things back. In Rose's absence, it's not only Jimmy Butler who gets to take on more responsibility, but there's more shots and space available for Mirotic, McDermott (ugh) and whoever else they can bring in over the summer. Hoiberg can focus on getting his system installed without also needing to worry about the old guard (including his literal old guard) holding (or even pushing) back. At least now, Fred is in a better position to operate, even if that means fail, on his own merits.

As far as the trade itself, the Bulls didn't receive much, and the cap effect is negligible for this offseason. Perhaps the Bulls could've done better if they waited until later in the summer as more teams saw they had cap space with nobody (more worthwhile) to spend it on. KC Johnson reported that other teams were asking for the Bulls to attach a pick to Rose, for what it's worth. Maybe they could have gotten an actual future first-round pick instead of merely a recent one like Jerian Grant. Perhaps instead of taking back veterans on decent contracts the cap space generated would've been used on better signings or trades. But that version of a Rose trade may not have been out there later, and the Bulls just took what they could now to add certainty in assessing the many holes on the team.

This will all get scrapped if indeed Butler is shipped out next, but I tend to believe Gar Forman when he said this was a retool, not rebuild. If an unbelievable offer is made for Butler, sure, but outside of getting $1.10 on the dollar I don't think it's worth it. They're mired in mediocrity for the time being, but unless you're guaranteed great picks, all a Butler deal gets you is more tickets....back to that same mediocrity.

Trading Butler would be a seismic shift in the franchise, and that is something definitely out of character for the Bulls. Because the fact that this Rose trade was made says less about the aggressiveness of the Bulls front office than it does about how Derrick Rose became irrelevant.