Derrick Rose Has Improved His Basketball IQ

Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls 2013-2014
(Photo Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports)
(Originally published in 2013)
“The Return” spawned all sorts of mythical improvements in D-Rose’s game: His increased vertical leap to 42 inches (up 5 inches from before), his wildly effective jumper that should’ve placed him somewhere between Kyle Korver and Mark Price in terms of three-point shooting, all the muscle he put on to make him difficult to deter on the way to the basket, and the fact that he was going to get more free-throw attempts because the NBA didn’t want to see him hurt again (averaging only 3 per game so far!).  Out of all these overblown projections, only one of them has held true (so far…give it time, as I said here):

Derrick Rose has improved his basketball IQ.

It’s hardly noticeable amidst all of the rust, but there’s a definite shift.  You can look at the black and white stats: 5 FGM per game, 15.6 FGA per game, 5 3PA per game, 3.5 TOV per game…I get all that, but again watch the games and look beneath the obvious rust.  First, his shot selection is much improved.  Here’s his shot chart per NBA.com/stats:

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60 of his 125 FGAs have come at the rim and 46 of those attempts have come within 5 feet.  He is attacking the rim…and getting to the rim.  These attempts contribute to 48% of his total shots.  Why is his field goal percentage so low? I have two theories: First, he’s still shaking off rust and not finishing at the rim.  Second, he’s taking contact, but not drawing any trips to the line.  If he gets fouled as he flings up a shot, it doesn’t count as a FGA.  If he doesn’t, it counts against him.  I think he’s throwing up some wild shots hoping to draw contact.  This should change as he works out the rust and/or starts flailing like Chris Paul to get to the line more.

But other changes you might notice to his basketball IQ are plays like the one below. This is from the Bulls’ last game against the Bobcats. Here, Derrick penetrates, reads the defense, and kicks it to Joakim Noah on along the baseline:

Granted, Joakim Noah missed the shot, but this is the kind of play you wouldn’t see Derrick making two years ago.  He would’ve attacked the rim recklessly and maybe taken a pounding.  Instead, he makes a smart basketball play and gets his teammate a good shot. If that’s anyone besides Joakim Noah?  It’s probably an easy two points. A very smart play by Derrick Rose. Here’s another play in that same game.  Rose gets the ball off of a Bobcats miss and pushes it up the court.  Seeing that he doesn’t have numbers, he backs up, surveys the scene, gives it to Boozer who finds Noah for the easy layup. It was a pivotal moment in the game and gave the Bulls breathing room as the Bobcats were clawing back into it.
Again, this is a play we wouldn’t see from Derrick Rose two years ago. He probably would’ve ran into traffic either turning it over or throwing up a wild shot.  It’s not that he lost his explosiveness, but that’s he’s gained an understanding of how to pick his spots and play wisely.

Again, once the rust wears off, these plays will become more evident.  He’ll essentially have the same Derrick Rose speed, the same Derrick Rose elite skills, the same Derrick Rose strength, the same Derrick Rose athleticism, but with Chris Paul or Tony Parker’s brain.
That is scary for the rest of the NBA.

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