3 goals: Derrick Rose – transition, lead the bench, find your niche

A healthy Derrick Rose remains an explosive attacker who could give the Pistons a devastating wrinkle down the stretch of close games
Jordan Johnson (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

(Editor’s note: Today continues a series looking at the 17 players – 15 under standard contracts, two on two-way deals – who comprise the 2019-20 Pistons roster heading into the home stretch of the off-season. Today: Derrick Rose. Coming Thursday: Bruce Brown.)

Derrick Rose’s career rebirth last season didn’t come because he reinvented himself. It came because he was far enough removed from the devastating effects of his multiple leg injuries to regain much of the explosiveness that had him speeding along a Hall of Fame track eight years ago.

The Pistons know they aren’t getting MVP-level Derrick Rose, but they’ll take every bit of the Rose who averaged 18.0 points in 27 minutes a game last season for Minnesota. They’d like to get a few more than the 51 games Rose logged, but chances are Rose would’ve played more if the Timberwolves hadn’t been in full tank mode after the All-Star break.

The Pistons covered themselves against the possibility of Rose missing time – or the likelihood of Rose being strategically rested, especially in the 13 back to backs on their schedule – by signing a perfectly capable backup point guard in Tim Frazier, who’s logged 65 starts over the past three seasons but will sit No. 3 on the depth chart behind Reggie Jackson and Rose.

The one area where Rose saw a noticeable spike in performance last season was 3-point accuracy, hitting 37 percent – the first time in Rose’s career he’s shot better than the NBA average. But it didn’t really reflect a change in Rose’s focus. His 3.8 3-point attempts per 36 minutes were far off his career high of 6.4 in 2014-15. He’s had four seasons with higher 3-point attempt rates than last year’s 19.4 percent of all shots.

Rose might not drive to the basket quite as frequently as he did in his heyday, but he’s no less relentless about it when he goes. His 4.1 free throws per 36 minutes last season would’ve ranked third – behind only Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond – among last season’s rotation regulars.

Dwane Casey’s practice is to present his players with a three-item card with their core values to the team before training camp starts. In keeping with that protocol but with a twist, we’ll look at the three goals for each player on the roster heading into the 2019-20 Pistons season. For Derrick Rose, those are …

BLEND SKILLS & SYSTEM – Rose is coming to a team that finished No. 7 in the NBA last season in percentage of total shots taken from the 3-point line (39.4) from a team that finished 26th (31.5). Rose took fewer than 20 percent of his attempts from the arc. He doesn’t necessarily have to change his style much to see his 3-point attempt rate jump; simply adhering to the tenets of Casey’s system will enable a spike naturally, even if it doesn’t become the staple of Rose’s game. Growing comfortable in the system will also mean that Rose becomes familiar with looking for open 3-point shooters on his many forays to the rim. That shouldn’t be much of a challenge for him – Rose’s basketball IQ has always been overshadowed by his stunning athleticism, but it’s also always been a driver of his success – though it will require immersion in a system that will be a little bit outside of his comfort zone initially.

LEAD SECOND UNIT – When the Pistons were at their best last season, it was because their bench consistently won its minutes. Ish Smith was a big part of that and the fact the Pistons went 8-18 in the 26 games he missed underscored how important Casey’s bench was to the whole of the Pistons. For all Smith meant from productivity and camaraderie standpoints, a healthy Rose represents an upgrade. Rose’s scoring gives Casey more flexibility in considering the composition of his starting lineup. Specifically, he could be freed to use Luke Kennard with the starters if he deems that best for that group’s chemistry. Or Rose could make Kennard an even more dynamic scoring threat by commanding double-team attention in pick-and-roll sets. Casey is undoubtedly pondering how to maximize Rose’s one-on-one scoring chops and that likely means using him in late-game situations in tandem with Griffin (plus Jackson and Drummond), but Rose’s first order of business will be elevating the play of the Pistons bench unit.

COMPLEMENT STARS – Rose has been an alpha dog forever, though he’s had plenty of time since the wave of leg injuries began more than six years ago to contemplate his altered reality. His experience in Cleveland with LeBron James and Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns figures to help him understand fit alongside All-Stars. Rose’s ability to break down defenses is especially valuable in the closing minutes of close games when defensive intensity ratchets up and points come grudgingly. That’s when pretty much every critical Pistons possession gets funneled through Griffin. If Rose can strike the right balance of when to play off of Griffin, how to work in tandem with Jackson and when to exploit openings on his own – and create further opportunities at the rim for Drummond against defenses guessing from where the attack will be sprung – then the Pistons could have a symbiotic closing punch. The Pistons figure to pick their spots with Rose to keep him fresh and healthy for the long haul, but on nights Casey has all hands on deck they figure to be a less predictable and more challenging team to defend if Rose hits his stride on all fronts.

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