Entering Free Agency, Derrick Rose Has Two Options: Be A Bad Starter, Or A Good 6th Man

Mar 25, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Jonathon Simmons (17) during the second half at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Jonathon Simmons (17) during the second half at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

NBA Free Agency: Derrick Rose’s best chance to play for a contender is by coming off the bench. Rose in 2017 is a below-average starting point guard

As the New York Knicks are officially mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs, Derrick Rose voiced his desire to play for a real contender next season. He enters NBA Free Agency this summer.

After playing 66 games in the 2015-16 season, Rose has remained relatively healthy and is likely to surpass 70 games this year. That may be assurance enough for some teams to offer Rose – who will turn 29 before the 2017-18 season starts – a long term contract. But the former MVP faces a poetically tragic dilemma in that he once helped pave the way for today’s score-first point guards, and yet he is no longer anywhere near their level.

Consider this: John Wall, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic and Jeff Teague make up three quarters of the (likely) 2017 playoff teams’ starting point guards. If you honestly believe Rose is currently better than a single player listed above, this article is not for you.

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On Episode 180 of the Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons and his guests agreed “There is a point guard surplus.” They evaluated the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday’s to be around the 19th best starting point guard in the NBA. With comparable career scoring scoring and assists averages, as well as injury histories, I found Holiday the perfect player through which to evaluate Rose’s place in the point guard hierarchy.

In this writer’s humble opinion, there are four factors that determine a modern point guards’ value: assists, defense, three-point shooting, and drawing shooting fouls.

Holiday’s 15.6 points per game on 13.5 shots per game are only slightly inferior to Rose’s 18.0 and 15.3, respectively. With almost identical True Shooting percentages, they hit opposing scoring checkmarks: Rose converts a respectable 3.5 free throws per game, while Holiday shoots a respectable 36.8 percent from three (Holiday doesn’t shoot a respectable number of free throws, and to call Rose’s three point shot respectable would be almost criminal).

Holiday is an above average defender and is averaging 7.2 assists per game this season (and 6.9 assists per game through his tenure with the New Orleans Pelicans). Rose, on the other hand, hasn’t averaged five assists per game in any season since tearing his ACL, and has never been a good defender.

If Holiday is a below average starting point guard, Rose is near the bottom. Most of the starting point guards at or below current his level – like D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schroder and Seth Curry – are still young enough to rapidly improve over the next few seasons.

All that being said, Rose can still potentially be an asset to a winning team, but only by coming off the bench.

Against opposing teams’ bench players, Rose’s poor defense wouldn’t be so harmful. Secondly, his remarkably-still-remarkable athleticism would allow him to more easily score against bench players, or drive and kick to shooters. He still has the talent to be on the floor in crunch time, but he will shine brightest coming off the bench. Recent history has also heavily favored guards in 6th Man of the Year voting.

A few teams come to mind as potential landing spots for Rose to either be a sparkling 6th Man, or a starter in name only while the franchise grooms a younger successor (much like the role Tony Parker plays for San Antonio this year). Leaving aside potential roster changes this summer, the following teams will likely have the defense and three point shooting to make up for Rose’s categorical insufficiencies: Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and whichever teams draft Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball.

Always in play are the Spurs, who have rejuvenated more washed-up players’ careers than I can list.

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This summer’s NBA Free Agency period will be especially interesting for point guards, as Holiday, Teague, and George Hill will join Rose as unrestricted free agents. As a former MVP, it may be hard for Derrick Rose to enter a situation where he isn’t even the best point guard on his own team. But if he can swallow his pride, and stay healthy, he might be able to add a new trophy to his collection: 6th Man of the Year.

NOTE: The New York Knicks just announced Derrick Rose will undergo surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. While this may affect his new salary, his expected full recovery before training camp should not affect his new role with his next team. This article was written before news of the meniscus tear was reported.