Why Derrick Rose Is a Lock to Return Better Than Ever in 2013-14

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 15, 2013

Derrick Rose is a stud, but he's going to be better than ever before when the 2013-14 regular season begins and he starts lighting it up for the Chicago Bulls

That's saying a lot. 

The point guard has been named the league MVP before, and he's carried Chicago to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Getting better ain't easy, especially coming off an ACL injury that kept him out for an entire season. 

And yet, he's going to do exactly that. Everything points in that direction. 


He says so

This offseason has been filled with proclamations from the former MVP that he's ready to go. As he told ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell, "I got confidence in my knee. There's no testing anymore. It's me just going out there and playing hard and attacking."

And it's not just confidence. 

Rose is apparently returning with more strength and a better jumper than ever before, as he says in that video up above. But that's still not it. 

In an interview with Slam Magazine's Adam Figman, the point guard also talked about a few aspects of his game. 

He discussed his strength: 

Now this year, I got a little more strength behind me, so I think going to the hole, taking those shots, I’ll be able to finish a lot stronger this year. There should be a lot more and-1s, hopefully.

His explosiveness: 

I think I’m a lot quicker, a lot more explosive, and I think I’m gonna go this year without that many nagging injuries, just trying to prevent it by stretching and doing all the things I have to do to take care of my body. 

And even his shooting: 

I’ve been shooting a lot. A lot. Especially during the ['12-13] season, I’d go out there before games and shoot up a lot of shots. Now you add lifting weights and you’re shooting almost every day, your shot becomes easier, and your confidence grows, and with shooting, there’s nothing like confidence. So I think I’m gonna be a great shooter next year.

That's a pretty scary combination, as Rose was already one of the most explosive and deadly offensive players in the league. But, was he telling the truth? 

It's easy to talk about being better. It's another thing entirely to actually show it out on the court, torturing the opposition with that increased level of strength and explosiveness. And so far, that's exactly what Rose has done during the Bulls' preseason action, even if he sat out during the third exhibition game with some knee soreness (a natural thing, don't worry). 

In the preseason opener on Oct. 5 against the Indiana Pacers, Rose played just over 20 minutes and recorded 13 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals on 5-of-12 shooting. Most importantly, he didn't look even remotely tentative, as you can see in this full-speed transition finish. 

There was a similar result when the Bulls took on the Memphis Grizzlies in the next game. 

In 23 minutes, Rose posted 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, shooting 3-of-8 from the field and making his only three-point of the contest. Again, he was explosive and not hesitant at all. 

Up to this point, the floor general simply hasn't given us a reason to doubt him. 


Young players return with stronger jumpers

The biggest knock on Rose has always been his inconsistent jumper. 

While he's terrific at getting to the rim no matter who stands in his way, he often struggles to hit shots from the perimeter, both long two-pointers and shots from beyond the three-point arc. 

According to Hoopdata.com, Rose made only 37 percent of his jumpers from 16 to 23 feet during the 2011-12 season, and he was even worse from 10 to 15 feet. That's just not going to cut it in Rose's quest to become the best player in basketball. 

Fortunately for the Bulls, CSNChicago.com's Mark Strotman has done a rather promising analysis. Here's a brief overview of the players he looked at: 

Going back to 2001, we documented nine players 25 years or younger who tore their ACL's. Those players are Jamal Crawford (was 21 years old; tore ACL in 2001), Al Harrington (21; 2002), Willie Green (23, 2005); Jason Smith (22; 2008), Tony Allen (25; 2007); Corey Brewer (22; 2008), Al Jefferson (24; 2009), Ricky Rubio (21; 2012) and Iman Shumpert (21; 2012).

And the results? Well, those look great for Rose. 

There's a big jump in field-goal percentage on jumpers after the injury. And it makes sense. What else are players supposed to be practicing when they have limited explosiveness and can only take little hops at a time? 

Strotman has the conclusion for us:

But what we can conclude is that, over the last 12 seasons, players who suffer ACL injuries return post-surgery better jump shooters than before they went down. Some of this certainly can be attributed to the extra work a player puts in from the outside while unable to go full-speed. Simply put, players are limited for a long while to only shooting jumpers, and it pays off the next season and the season after that.

Basketball-Reference shows that Rose shot 35.7 percent on jumpers during his last healthy season. And in 2010-11, he was at 35.9 percent. 

Well, just imagine what happens now. If he follows the trend that Strotman presented, he'll be able to work his way up near 40 percent. 

And that makes him all the more dangerous. 


Jimmy Butler

D-Rose has never played with a high-quality 2-guard like Jimmy Butler. 

He had Ben Gordon during his rookie season in 2008-09, just about no one in 2009-10, Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer in 2010-11 and a completely washed up Rip Hamilton in 2011-12. 

However, Butler is there now, ready to make a sizable two-way impact. Not only is he one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, but he took major strides on the offensive end of the court during his second professional season. 

After the All-Star break, Butler scored 10.9 points, grabbed 4.8 rebounds and dished out 2.2 dimes per game. And he was even better during the postseason, averaging 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. 

Butler managed to show off quite a few offensive skills in the process, hitting 40.5 percent of his triples in the postseason and displaying a newfound ability to create for himself. The number of step-back jumpers that he drilled was simply astounding. 

And now he and Rose get to play together. 

The increased physical tools and more effective jumper will be beneficial, but the stronger guard in the lineup will make even more of a difference. Defenses won't be able to throw double teams at D-Rose with as much frequency, nor can they collapse around him when he inevitably drives to the rim. 

When it comes to dribble-drive kick-outs, Rose is nearly unmatched. He's fantastic at getting into the air and hitting open shooters on the perimeter. See another way that the young swingman might be able to help him out? 

Additionally, Butler is going to draw attention, and he'll also be able to cover the other team's top backcourt member. That helps, as well, as Rose won't be asked to exert quite as much energy on the defensive end of the court. 

Everything points toward the former MVP having the most impressive season of his career. Yes, even more impressive than the 2010-11 campaign in which he won the top individual award, becoming the only player not named LeBron James to do so in the last four years. 

And if he does that, then LeBron might be dethroned yet again. 


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