While we're still at the point where we must be cognizant of sample size over nearly everything, it's safe to say the 2013-14 season hasn't started the way the Chicago Bulls or Derrick Rose have envisioned.
Chicago came into Friday night's game against the Utah Jazz at 1-3, losing two of the games against fellow Eastern Conference contenders by double digits. Their only win came in a one-point nail-biter against the New York Knicks—and I don't think we need to discuss the straight shot to hell that team is on.
Rose, of course, has been the poster boy of the Bulls' struggles. He was averaging only 15 points, 3.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game, all of which would be the worse of his career. His 31.3 shooting percentage is among the worst for qualified leaders. Chicago is more than 30 points per 100 possessions better with Rose off the floor than when he's on.
In short, it's been a start-to-finish nightmare. Check that—it's been a nightly screening of The Conjuring for Bulls fans. The media in Chicago has already begun turning its back on Rose, wondering why he didn't just come back last season if he was going to actively take away from the team.
Coach Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Bulls have continually come to their superstar's support.
"This isn't a Derrick issue," Thibodeau said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "This is a Bulls issue."
Support in the locker room or not, that doesn't change the fact that the Bulls cannot win if Rose keeps playing like this. With that in mind, let's take a look at exactly where Rose is struggling offensively* and take a trip to the film room and see why.
He's Trying to Do Too Much on Pick-And-Rolls
When this Bulls offense is humming—at least the old, 2011-12 version with Rose leading the charge—their primary start is with a basic motion set, with the off guard passing the ball to one side of the floor to set up a series of secondary movements. If Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah get good post position on their man, Rose or the other entry passer will drop the ball in and clear out.
But the secondary act on that play—spots where the post pass isn't open—involves Rose running a pick-and-roll with another wing or the other big. Again, simple stuff, and an overarching reason why the Bulls offense often grew stale in the postseason. Tom Thibodeau was open during training camp about wanting to add new wrinkles to the attack, and there were a few successful variations the Bulls ran quite well during the preseason.
The problem is that Rose has struggled to even execute the most basic of plays. In short, he's been dreadful this season running the bread and butter pick-and-roll.
Heading into Friday's action, Synergy Sports measured the Bulls as the worst pick-and-roll offense in the league, averaging 0.51 points per possession. That's a problem. The Bulls have finished, which is defined as a field goal attempt, foul drawn or turnover, about 16.7 percent of their plays from pick-and-roll sets, and Rose represents nearly half of those attempts.
Rose is averaging 0.31 points per pick-and-roll possession. He's shooting an abysmal 21.1 percent and has turned the ball over on more than a third of his tries.
The turnovers are obviously a major issue here, the one Rose most needs to curtail if he hopes to be the primary ball-handler on a winning team. He's averaging more than five cough ups per game, but more importantly, the mistakes he's making are so similar that one has to wonder what he's doing in the film room.
Part of what makes Rose so special is that he can make the spectacular look normal. But as he's been rounding into shape, he's been making the spectacular look...impossible. Rose has been goaded into unnecessarily splitting defenders, forcing bad contact that results in wildly errant shots and generally been careless with his possessions.
Here Rose attempts to run a pick-and-roll with Boozer that Paul George instantly snuffs out. Rather than wait and reset the play, Rose, for some reason, dribbles right into a double between George and David West. You can probably guess how that ended.
It's not just the turnovers. Rose has continually invited contact in an attempt to draw fouls, jumping into the defender and creating even more difficult jumpers. On this play Rose declines to take a mid-range shot in rhythm near the elbow, instead using a hesitation dribble to try to get to the rim. When the defender doesn't bite, Rose strangely goes baseline, picks up his dribble and jumps forward to get a call that doesn't come.
Thibodeau has spoken out about the refs not giving Rose calls because he's a "nice guy." But the reality is they're not giving him calls because he's playing out of control and putting himself in bad situations.
Where's the Jump Shot?
Being "rusty" in sports terms is hard to quantify. It's one of those sportswritery terms where it can have any application in any situation to make a point, like when #hottake artists have endless, mind-numbing debates based on rhetoric on whether a player is "elite."
That being said...
Just days before the season began, backup point guard Marquis Teague gave a glowing review to Rose's jumper. Teague said that it would make the 2011 league MVP "unguardable." While I have little doubt that Rose has looked good in practice—he was very solid beyond the three-point arc in the preseason—it hasn't carried over to the regular season.
Heading into Friday night, Rose had made just seven of 39 jump shots, just under 18 percent. Though Rose was always an average jump-shooter at best, that's a full 10 percent worse than his rate during his injury-plagued 2011-12 season.
While much of that can be attributed to a small sample and Rose getting reacclimated to a regular-season workload, his underlying stats bear out even worse news. According to the NBA's SportsVu tracking data, Rose is shooting 4 percent on pull-up jumpers this season, which STATS, Inc. defines as a jump shot taken outside 10 feet after at least one dribble.
To put that in perspective, among players who take an average of three pull-up jumpers per game, Rose is by far the worst in the NBA. Only he and Wayne Ellington make fewer than 10 percent of their pull-ups; Rose is five times worse than noted terrible jump shooter Ricky Rubio.
On film, deficiencies show up all over the place with Rose's jumper. Look at how torqued his body is after he releases this shot, as if he was preparing to pirouette upon landing back on the floor.
It's tough to gauge body language on the floor, but at the 4:30 mark in the fourth, Rose took a 16-foot jumper and began jumping up and down on the floor after he released—as if to will the ball through the basket. He has no confidence shooting the ball yet, and that comes with good reason.
But, of course, shooting slumps aren't uncommon among players who ranked below average in most metrics to begin with. We don't have SportsVu data publicly available, but there are multiple spots in Rose's career where he's shot 18 percent on jumpers over a long stretch of games.
Couple it with all the other troubles he's been having, though, and it's quickly becoming a mess.
*Rose has been bad defensively. He's been jumpy on pick-and-rolls, missed assignments on down screens and made plenty of low-IQ plays. But I'm more inclined to forgive that, because it's been 18 months since he was running Thibodeau's defense, and he wasn't the most integral cog in that attack when healthy. But it's a problem
All stats are via NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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