2019 NBA Free Agents: Derrick Rose
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Derrick Rose was one of the feel-good stories of the past NBA season. After battling injuries and depression for an extended spell, he rediscovered his old self in Minnesota in the company of some of his former Chicago Bulls teammates, under his old (and, at the time, new) coach Tom Thibodeau.
Rose’s throwback season reminded everyone why he became the league’s youngest-ever MVP in 2011. This year, he played in a 51 games; his most in the last four seasons. Rose even recorded a new career-high 50 points, while also assuming a leadership role during some stretches of a turbulent season for the Timberwolves; one that saw the departure of Jimmy Butler, the termination of Tom Thibodeau's employment, and an extended engagement with the injury bug. Despite a season-ending elbow injury that abruptly cut short his sensational comeback, there’s no denying that Rose, when healthy, is still one of the most explosive and offensively lethal guards in the league.
Last Season Stats: 18.0 PPG 50.9 2P% 37 3P% 85.6 FT% 2.7 REB 4.3 AST 27.3 MPG
Even after four knee injuries, Rose showed he’s not afraid to mix it up in the paint. He can still flash his signature devil-may-care drives from time to time, but what made him more dangerous on the offensive end last season is his improved outside shot, as he transitioned from playing the point to attacking more from the two-guard spot. He enjoyed his best three-point percentage in his career last season, leading to a career-high 51.8% Effective Field Goal Percentage (EFG). On top of the return of his explosive offense, his playmaking and veteran leadership will be most coveted by teams looking to solidify their backcourt.
Signing Rose, however, will always come with a risk. While he managed to play 51 games and averaged 27 minutes on the floor this year, he can certainly seem a ticking time bomb of sorts, counting down until yet another below-the-knee injury. That being said, teams will have to proceed with caution when dealing with him; he can be threat to take over games when on a good night. But even when healthy, his defense no longer belongs to the elite category. His 0.3 defensive win shares (DWS) last season pales in comparison to the 4.8 DWS he put up during his MVP season.
Rose will be a “load management” candidate next season. He could thrive in a sixth man role, and can step up when the need arises, essentially promising similar performance to the player he was in Minnesota. All he needs is a team that will want/can afford to trust him. He can be the leader off the bench for a playoff contender or provide veteran leadership for a young rebuilding team. Rose can bloom once again with the right environment; preferably one with a solid sports medicine staff that can take good care of his body. At this point in his career though, it likely that Rose would prefer joining a playoff team that can give him a legitimate shot at winning his first ring.
Possible landing spots:
Chicago Bulls: There’s no guarantee if Rose can stay healthy in his 30s so a homecoming in Chicago would be another feel-good redemption narrative. But if the Bulls are iffy with a reunion, Rose may still draw interest from teams which either want to fill a vacuum or shore up their backcourt.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Coming back to Minnesota will also be an option as backup guard Tyus Jones is set to enter restricted free agency and the hard-capped Wolves won’t have the money to go into a bidding war with other teams. They may look to bring back Rose at a discount (think veteran minimum) price.
Memphis Grizzlies: Now that Mike Conley is gone, and Rose has a shooter in the backcourt with him in sophomore Grayson Allen, Rose can possibly enjoy a homecoming of sorts. He played in the area during his lone NCAA season, and could serve as a useful mentor to presumptive second overall pick Ja Morant in a pressure-free environment.
Los Angeles Lakers: Another possibility is a reunion with LeBron James in Los Angeles if the Lakers (upon completion of the supposedly-revised Davis trade, whenever that happens) don't have the money to go after top-tier point guards in the free agent market. Los Angeles could use warm, experienced bodies to fill their backcourt off the bench, and they are near-locks to bargain bin-dive at some point this summer.
Detroit Pistons: Colour me surprised! Another Eastern Conference team that is intrigued by Rose’s stellar comeback last season. The big question mark, again, is Rose’s durability; but he's certainly on the radar of a team with fringe playoff aspirations and little cap space to work with.
Expected next contract:
Despite his strong showing last season, his long history of injuries may prevent him from getting more than the veteran’s minimum. Teams will likely offer him one-year deals or a 1+1 at most. He is the quintessential low-risk, high-reward player.