Derrick Rose is back in his second home. The New York Knicks re-acquired the former MVP in a deal over the weekend with the Detroit Pistons, confirmed on Monday morning. The Knicks sent a 2021 second-round pick and enigmatic 2017 top-10 draft choice, Dennis Smith Jr., to Detroit.
It’s a return to NYC that nobody really asked for, but one Knicks fans shouldn’t be mad at unless the team decides to keep Elfrid Payton beyond the March 25 trade deadline. The deal reunites Rose with the head coach he’s had the most success with in Tom Thibodeau, and gives the Knicks a top-six-or-seven rotation piece at the minimal cost of a non-rotation player and a second-round draft choice. Rose is also in the final season of a two-year deal worth $15 million total.
Quietly, Rose has played his best basketball post-ACL tear since initially joining the Knicks prior to the 2016-17 season. In the last five years, Rose has averaged 16.6 points and 4.3 assists while shooting over 47 percent from the floor, and that includes a bizarre stint with Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as a nine-game cup of coffee with the Minnesota Timberwolves that same 17-18 season, when he appeared to be at the end of the line before a resurgence the following year. (Should be noted that Rose did average over 14 points, shot nearly 51 percent from the field and 70 percent from three in five playoff games with Minnesota that season, though, in his only taste of playoff basketball without the Chicago Bulls.)
In 2018-19, Rose produced the highest offensive rating of his career, 114 per 100 possessions. Last season with the Detroit Pistons, his 109 O-rating was the fourth-highest of his career, and his 25.1 points per-36 minutes were a personal best, one whole point higher than his 2010-11 MVP campaign. In both the last two seasons, Rose finished in the top-seven of Sixth Man of the Year voting, successfully reinventing his basketball career as a scoring lead guard with above league average playmaking abilities. This season, Rose is good for 14.2 points and 4.2 assists in just under 23 minutes per game, though he only shot 43 percent from the field, but give him a break, he was a Detroit Piston. Per-36 minutes, Rose’s averages sit at 22.4 points and 6.6 assists. For reference: This is slightly up from his 20.3 points and 6.4 assists per-36 during his seven-season Bulls tenure. (No, he’s not a better player now, necessarily.)
The Knicks indisputably got the best player in the deal, but if Payton remains on the team, and or the acquisition of Rose stunts rookie Immanuel Quickley’s growth, what’s the ultimate benefit? At 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, while logging the fourth-most minutes on his team (28.5), Payton’s statistically one of the NBA’s least productive starting point guards, and would be better served coming off the bench for a contender instead of standing in Quickley’s way.
Quickley is averaging 12.0 points and 2.7 assists while logging only 18.9 minutes per contest. He’s also shooting 36.3 percent from three, and providing more hope for Knick fans than fellow Kentucky-alum Kevin Knox ever has. Quickley’s minutes have been as consistent as his shooting, but if the Knicks are ever going to conclude their seemingly multiple decades long rebuild, developing young talent is the essential method. Quickley doesn’t need 30 minutes per night, but he should hover around at least 20-25 for the bulk of his rookie campaign, unless he Swanton Bombs into a rookie wall.
And Austin Rivers has been exactly who Austin Rivers has been throughout his career, which isn’t to say that it’s bad; it’s to say that Quickley’s development should supersede a nightly 8-2-2 in 23 minutes. IQ already has eight games of 16 or more points, including four of 23-plus.
Play Rose, play Quickley; play Rose with Quickley, but clear the way by dealing Payton (and perhaps other stuff to acquire draft capital or a player to help your playoff push) elsewhere.