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Evaluating Derrick Rose’s Postseason Play

Chicago Bulls fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Derrick Rose made it through the playoffs virtually unscathed, entering an offseason without having to recover from a major injury for the first time since 2011. That’s the silver lining Bulls fans will have to accept after Chicago was unceremoniously ousted by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers once again. The other silver lining; Rose didn’t just get through the postseason without getting seriously hurt, he actually played pretty well, too.

We saw glimpses of MVP Rose—crossing up his defenders, hitting crafty, acrobatic layups, and even showcasing a renewed jumper.

He shot 34.8 percent from deep in the playoffs, up 6.8 percent from the regular season.

Rose scored at least 30 points three times in 12 postseason games. He had four in 51 games during the regular season. I thought he might have one of those breakout performances, but to have three in two closely played six-game series was huge.

Rose had a 7.2 NetRtg, per NBA.com, improved by 3.1 from the regular season. He averaged 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the postseason, all up from his regular-season averages.

Rose often played with the confidence, aggressiveness and smoothness that made him such an imposing player, but he still reverted to the player that settles for jumpers too often and went through stretches of basically just floating around. Some of that may have been due to his 37.8 minutes per game, up from 30 minutes per game during the season.

Fatigue from playing more minutes and carrying a bigger offensive load finally took its toll on Rose.

In Game 5 with the series tied 2-2 against the Cavs, Rose jumped out to 12 first-quarter points, but shot 2-15 the rest of the way and was held scoreless the final 23:30 minutes. In a make-or-break, series-shifting game, that was unacceptable. He did hurt his shoulder in that game, but at this stage in his career, injuries and fatigue are something he’ll have to fight through.

Because of Rose’s occasional offensive explosions and increase in minutes, the perception of his play outweighed reality.

He finished with a 16.71 PER, only up 0.77 from the regular season. 46 players have a better PER this postseason, and among players still alive, Draymond Green, Clint Capela, Josh Smith and DeMarre Carroll, just to name a few, have a better PER.

Rose thrived at creating his own shot, but still struggled to set up others. Even when Rose was MVP, he wasn’t the best decision maker and was careless with the ball at times. We saw that again in the playoffs, with Rose making some boneheaded passes leading to Cavs fastbreaks.

He averaged 6.5 assists in the postseason, which isn’t enough for a team stocked with complementary players who can’t create their own shot. To Rose’s credit, it’s not easy getting assists when your top pick-and-roll partner shot 40.8 percent from the field.

According to SportVU, Rose passed it to Joakim Noah 19.8 percent of the time, the second-most of any player, yet only completed 0.4 assists per game to him. Noah’s inability to score whatsoever or even hit the rim at times was unsettling, and also hurt Rose’s production. It also didn’t help that Noah’s defender would usually sag off him and hedge pick-and-rolls, cramming things up any time Rose tried to score.

Everyone got to see the healthy Rose we waited four years to see again in the postseason. It didn’t work out the way anyone had hoped for the Bulls, but Rose still played at a high level for stretches, and his intangibles shouldn’t go unnoticed.

As I noted during the Milwaukee Bucks series, when Rose is looking good and playing with passion, the amount of belief he gives his teammates and fans is unbelievable.

For Rose to thrive in the future, the Bulls will need to put him with bigs who can finish off cuts and plug more shooters around him. The Bulls’ often offense had no flow or reason to it, leaving Rose, Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol to have to create offense for themselves when the half-court set was stagnant.

With a coaching change and some slight changes to the roster likely looming, the Bulls will get a chance at redemption next year.

The Bulls proved they can’t win with Rose as their best player, and Rose proved he can’t carry a huge offensive workload anymore—and he shouldn’t be expected to. He should thrive under a new offense next season, with Fred Hoiberg looking like a perfect fit for his skillset. Rose will need to focus on creating more for others instead of forcing his own shot and at times, becoming a burden.

A healthy (fingers crossed) offseason will do wonders for Rose. Until then, we’ll await the next chapter in Rose’s roller coaster ride of a story.

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