NBA Teams Reportedly Want To Trade For Derrick Rose, But Why?

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Here are two sets of Derrick Rose numbers.

The first set is 17.7 points per game, and 46 percent shooting from the field. Those are numbers Rose is producing on the court for the New York Knicks this season.

The second set of numbers is $21 million, and zero. That’s Rose’s salary this season, followed by the salary he’s due next season.

One of those sets of numbers, I guess, is not a totally indefensible reason to trade for Derrick Rose. The other one is a stupid reason to trade for Derrick Rose. If you are a fan of one of the teams reportedly sniffing around the possibility of trading for him—like, for example, the Timberwolves, whose coach and head personnel honcho, Tom Thibodeau, was Rose’s coach for five years in Chicago and is famous for the fanaticism with which he sticks by certain players—you are hoping the doofuses in charge can tell which is which.


Let’s clear up that part, straight away. Derrick Rose is not a good professional basketball player anymore. In fact, between his diminished athleticism and the big holes in his game, he’s pretty solidly a net negative at both ends of the court these days, and has been trending in that direction for a few years. Choose your holistic player-value metric of preference (VORP, WS/48, BPM, whatever) and it will tell you that he is among the worse guards playing starter-type minutes in the entire NBA.


The trends in basketball have done Rose no favors, either. To be sure, at no particular point in the life of the sport was there a whole lot of value in a guard who:

  • Doesn’t shoot threes (1.3 attempts per 36 minutes, fewer than Zach Randolph takes);
  • Can’t make them when he tries (he’s hitting 24 percent from beyond the arc);
  • Doesn’t shoot a lot of free-throws (4.0 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes, good for 78th among minutes-qualified players);
  • Doesn’t create many good looks for others (the NBA’s stats site has Rose creating 9.4 potential assists per game, good for 37th in the league);
  • And oh, hey, also, doesn’t play any defense (his -2.1 Defensive Box Plus-Minus is the 241st-best in the NBA, according to Basketball Reference).

But, if the game ever was relatively friendly to that type of player, it certainly isn’t right now. The league’s good guards are efficiency machines, now more than ever: They pour in threes, or live at the free-throw line, or create bushels of good looks for others, or all of the above. They exert far, far, far more influence over the game’s contours and gravity than Rose ever could by hitting 46 percent of 18 two-pointers per game and doing nothing much else.

Rose is 28 years old. He has been in the NBA since 2008. He has no developing left to do. This is what kind of NBA player he is going to be. A crappy one.


On the other hand, his expiring contract may have some value, even in this era of an exploded salary cap. Plenty of teams have need for cap space, or could certainly make use of it, and $21 million is a lot to clear off the ledger in one big Derrick Rose-shaped lump. Not least among the teams that would like to clear that lump off their ledger so that they can spend their money on players less bad than Derrick Rose is the team currently paying him to play basketball—the Knicks. That’s why he’s available!

A competently run team may trade some junk for the right to pay Rose for the rest of this season, and then the infinitely more valuable right to stop paying him shortly thereafter. And it’s not entirely out of the question that some coach could find the right extremely limited role for him in the meantime: On the right second unit, with guys who could shore up his limitations on defense, he could probably gun for buckets for a dozen minutes a night without cutting too disastrous a plus-minus figure. He’d probably be an upgrade over at least a handful of the league’s crappier backup guards, if he could be got for a box of donuts. That would be a not-stupid deal!


Or, a dumb team—or a loyal former coach insufficiently checked within the organization that gave him more personnel power than he probably knows what to do with—might trade some actual players and/or assets of value for him, believing that superficially decent-looking points-per-game figure points to a healthy Rose evincing something like the force of nature he used to be. That would be a disaster for that team’s fans, but not for the Knicks.

In any case, I won’t be able to clown sad Knicks fans like Kyle Wagner for having Derrick Rose on their team anymore, and that will be a tragedy.