The Chicago Bulls season ended in an utterly embarrassing, disappointing fashion last Thursday night. And as the Bulls move on into the offseason there is a thunderous cloud of uncertainty hovering over the United Center. No one knows who’ll be the coach of the Bulls next season nor which players will return. But what we do know, and can take solace in is the second round playoff performance of Derrick Rose.
During the regular season Rose’s performance was for the most part inconsistent. There would be week stretches at times when Rose would string together games that made you think he was “back.” But then the next week we would see Rose regress back to the mean.
And while we did see a smarter, more selective Rose when on the court, his shot selection was less than desired for. The constant slashing, attacking the paint, midrange fiend Rose once was had seemed to almost vanish. Instead, we saw a more conservative player, tentative almost to attack the hole.
Moreover, one of the aspects of Rose’s game that had made him so pivotal in years past, seemed to have all but dissipated, his midrange jumper. Replacing those once ever so dangerous midrange friendlies, were three-point attempts. Rose, never a great long-range shooter in his own right, attempted 5.3 three’s per game this season, the most of his career. If he was converting them at a reasonable rate that wouldn’t be bothersome, but shooting at a 28% clip doesn’t bode well for success.
Now, for what it’s worth, I can see the reasoning behind the increase in three attempts. After years of injuries and being on the sidelines, attempting to expand his range could be a way of Rose trying to lengthen his career, to a certain extent. Even more, after spending as much time as he has on his shot being out of the lineup, it’s easy to assume his confidence was high. Unfortunately, while that confidence seemed to transition into games, the conversion rate didn’t.
In the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks, Rose’s mimicked much of what he did during the regular season, a lot of three’s, no in between game, and an average number of points in the paint. Over six games, Rose attempted 39 three’s, averaging out to a whopping 6.7 per game, more than he attempted during the regular season. Granted, he did convert on 37.5%, which is phenomenal for Rose, but the 6.7 attempts is more than enough.
Continuing, through six games against the Bucks, Rose only attempted 21 midrange shots. Of those 21 shots, Rose made seven total. In addition, Rose attempted 39 shots in the paint, converting on a reasonable 48.7% rate, which against the Bucks’ length and second overall defense is pretty damn good. Nonetheless, there was never really an in between game from Rose during the first round, mostly it was a plethora of three’s and attacking the paint when the situation presented itself.
When the Cleveland series kicked off, at least from one’s perspective, Rose appeared to be a player much more comfortable, sure of himself on the court. In strictly looking at shooting percentages from this series, they were cringe worthy, but Rose’s play went beyond such.
Through the duration of the series, little by little it felt as though we were seeing the full confidence come back to Rose, he was getting that swagger back in his game. No more were we seeing the player from the regular season or even the first round, somewhat passive going to the hole, settling for three’s. Rather, Rose was showing that full arsenal again, where at times it brought you back to that infamous 2011 season.
Rose was working the pick-and-roll relentlessly, attacking the defense either pulling up from midrange, going all the way to hole (51 attempts in the paint, up from 39 in the first round) or finding the open man on the kick-out. More importantly, we saw regression from three point land, and an increase in the midrange area. Through six games, Rose attempted 25 three’s which came in at 4.3 per game, down from the 6.7 attempts previously. As opposed to the 21 midrange shots Rose took in the first round, he attempted 58 midrange shots in the second round. Below is a shot distribution of Rose against the Bucks (on top) and against the Cavs (on the bottom).
Furthermore, for comparisons sake, in the first round, 29% of Rose’s field goals came from catch and shoot, 32% from pull-ups and 38% came within 10 feet of the hoop. However, against the Cavs, that distribution changed significantly. Only 9% of his field goals came from catch and shoot, 50.7% from pull-ups (40.4% of those pull-ups from two-point range) and 39.6% from within 10 feet of the rim.
In it’s essence, the Cleveland series witnessed Rose revert back from the almost conservative style approach. Instead, while still being more selective and smarter with his play, Rose was getting back into his old form. The relentless attacking of the rim, either the full power of going into his defender, feathery-touch floaters or the magician-esque finishes around the rim. And then the midrange game, working his defender off the dribble either pulling up or stepping back for a jumper. When Rose has all of that working, he becomes one of the most difficult players to defend.
For so much of the season Derrick Rose struggled to find consistency and rhythm to his game. We saw stretches during the season, but never the full arsenal from Rose. But as the series against Cleveland unfolded, that full arsenal began to come into fruition. And as the Bulls head into the offseason after a disappointing end, there is momentum and optimism with the recent play from Derrick Rose.
All stats via NBA.com/Stats
Twitter – @Tyler_Pleiss