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Can Inconsistent Derrick Rose Find His Way Again?

December 25, 2015: Chicago Bulls Guard Derrick Rose (1) [1944] guards Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Russell Westbrook (0) [1973] at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City (Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire)
Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire

It was just a few years ago that the Chicago Bulls were an Eastern Conference powerhouse led by a young superstar point guard in Derrick Rose.

Today, the Bulls are a difficult team to decipher. They’re a talented team that can beat anybody, but they’re also a maddeningly inconsistent team that’s struggling to adapt to new head coach Fred Hoiberg.

At the heart of that inconsistency is Rose, who’s struggled to find his footing after years of injury problems.

As Rose battled those injuries, the Bulls fell from the NBA’s elite and tempers flared within the organization. In a very impatient NBA, management chose to fire Tom Thibodeau in the offseason, the coach who helped bring Chicago back to NBA relevance and also gave the team an identity.

Fans have complained about the lack of talent around Rose or argued that health and bad luck were the issues, and those are all factors that have come into play. But how long are you supposed to wait before you can give up on this hope that Rose will return to MVP, or even All-Star, form and save the day?

Rose hasn’t played close to a full NBA season since 2010-11, the same 2010-11 season in which LeBron James debuted in Miami, the Los Angeles Lakers sported a Kobe-Bynum-Pau Big 3 and Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 25 a game for the Knicks.

The Bulls held serve when Rose missed time, and every year there were expectations that he could come back to spur championship-level basketball. But he didn’t return as expected in 2012-13 and then got re-injured each of the last two seasons. It’s been a cruel game for the Chicago fans whose emotions continually swing around on a yo-yo string when it comes to Rose, and since he’s consistently gotten re-injured, that sliver of hope remains that one day he’ll put it all back together again.

However, when you look at his productivity over the past few years when he’s been on the court, it’s hard to remain optimistic. Through 27 games this year, Rose is shooting just 38.6 percent from the field and 24.6 percent from three while averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 assists in 32.7 minutes per game.

Rose’s 10.57 PER puts him at No. 251 out of 324 eligible players and is lower than names like Kelly Oubre Jr., Joe Ingles and JaKarr Sampson. The point guard’s 43.5 true shooting percentage places him at No. 313 on the list.

These numbers don’t reflect the standard for a player getting paid over $20 million this season. Granted, when Rose signed the deal, he was a young MVP who looked to be a perennial NBA All-Star. But at this point, he’s not worth nearly that much. If this weren’t the year Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson ranked first and second in NBA salaries at $25 million each, one could easily argue that Rose is the most overpaid player in the league.

So why has Chicago been so patient with Rose? There are still some things working in his favor:

  1. There isn’t a suitable replacement behind him. Without Rose, Chicago is left with the combination of Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks.  The Derrick Rose name value alone has more on-court significance than that duo.
  2. Rose is a hometown kid and only MVP since Michael Jordan, and the typically conservative Bulls front office is likely hesitant to make the drastic move of getting rid of him. They want to give him as many chances as possible to get back to his former self, and such a big move could also upset the fan base and/or locker room.
  3. Rose is still an athletic freak. Even after countless injuries, he’ll make plays that seem unfeasible to the average human (although he’s still not dunking again yet). These consistent flashes inspire hope and keep the organization foaming at the mouth for his return to form.

Rose has shown signs of quality play this season, and his last few games have been especially promising. But he needs to show a lot more consistency moving forward, and questions remain about the on-court effectiveness of him and Jimmy Butler, who’s taken the reins as the Bulls’ best player.

Despite these recent flashes of strong play, there’s plenty of skepticism about whether Rose can be a great player again. For someone who was once one of the NBA’s more exciting young stars, he’s just become another injury-riddled NBA contract trying to find his way again.

Chicago likely won’t part with Rose before his contract is up in 2017, but it’d behoove them to look into it. He’s not a championship-caliber guard anymore, and he’s not worth the money or the trouble.

Rose deserves to be in the league and can still be an effective player, but he’s not the same guy he used to be, and no one should have him carry a team on the court or the balance sheet.

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