Before his devastating ACL injury in 2012, Derrick Rose was destined for greatness. Raised in Chicago, Rose was Chicago’s best hope of winning another championship for the Bulls, a team that was once glorious under the leadership of Michael Jordan. Rose carried not only the team, but also the hopes and dreams of the city of Chicago. His flashy crossovers, his speed and explosiveness, and his thunderous dunks were once guaranteed to appear on highlight reels and led the Bulls to the league’s best record in 2011 and himself to the MVP trophy, the youngest to ever win the award in history. Yet, this all changed when he went down during a drive in 2012, which resulted in a torn ACL and endless whispers of “what if...”.
After the injury, Rose didn’t look like his old self; he drove to the basket less, he was less efficient on his mid-range shots, and he no longer threw down dunks, that once would receive uproars from stadium crowds. Rose never fully recovered from the injury, and a comparison of his stats before and after the injury clearly shows that.
I will use data from the official NBA website, where you can track the statistics of individual players during his active seasons. I will especially focus on the “Drive” category of the Player Tracking system. Again, I am mainly going to focus on the difference between metrics that measure Rose’s offensive effectiveness, such as points per game (PPG), assists per game (APG), effective field percentage (eFG%), free throw attempts per 48 minutes (FTA/48), and offensive rating (ORTG). I’m simply going to compare these stats for Derrick Rose before and after his injury to reflect how his ACL injury has drastically affected his playing style and effectiveness on the court.
From the picture above, we can see an obvious drop in all of the categories discussed in the previous section. After the injury, Rose scored less, passed the ball less, didn’t shoot the ball as effectively, and didn’t get to the free throw line as often. Most notably, his eFG% took a big dip, from 48.6% before the injury to 44.5% after the injury, possibly due to his altered shooting form. Since the power of shooting a jumper comes mostly from the knees and the legs, Rose had to alter his shooting form, albeit slightly, to accommodate his less powerful knees. Furthermore, he only averaged 4.8 APG, which isn’t a pretty number even for an attacking point guard. All this change is reflected on his offensive rating, which has the most significant decrease post- injury.
Before the injury, Rose had an offensive rating of 109.6, which is how many points a player can produce either by scoring or assisting per 100 possessions. After the injury, however, this number drops significantly to 95.6, which means Rose isn’t nearly as effective and involved on offense, as he once was. Although flashes of his athleticism that remind fans of his MVP form, Rose clearly has not been able to produce numbers that come anywhere close to the numbers he put up his MVP year.
Above, I tracked starting guards who have played at least 20 games and averaged at least 6 drives per game (through Jan. 12, 2017).2 Of the 14 guards listed, Rose’s FG% of 54% is only behind Eric Bledsoe and his percentage of points scored during those drives is 83%, which puts him only behind Damian Lillard. However, the percentage of the time that he passes the ball when he drives sits at 25.6%, which places him at 11 out of the 14 guards listed. This means that, although he has been an efficient and voluminous shooter around the basket, Rose is a fairly inefficient passer when kicking the ball out, and even when he does kick the ball out, he fails to pass the ball to the open shooters or good finishers. Of his passes, only 6.1% become assists, which also places him at 11th out of the 14 guards listed above. This leads us to ponder, if it’s truly better for Rose to pass the ball to someone like Joakim Noah, rather than driving to the basket, or is it better offensively for Rose to just shoot the ball every single time he drives?
Ever since the injury, Derrick Rose has not been able to consistently perform at a MVP level. As a guard that relies heavily on change of speed and direction, an ACL injury is truly devastating. However, Rose is still a well-above average athlete, and with his occasional bursts of speed and explosiveness, he is still one of the most exciting players to watch in the league. No longer the primary scorer on his new team, the New York Knicks, Rose will be able to play smarter and more efficiently as the season progresses. He may not be the MVP-level player that he used to be, but he is still certainly a force not easily stopped when he gets in groove.
Edited by Derek Topper