Just seven short season ago, a 22 year old Derrick Rose in just his third season became the NBA’s youngest MVP ever. Rose is still available in free agency, a week after all of the big name players signed contracts. There have been a few rumors about potential destinations for Rose since free agency started on July 1. First there was the rumor that the New York Knicks were interested in bringing Rose back, then there was the report that the Milwaukee Bucks were considering making a trade to open up cap space in order to sign Rose. Then there were a few rumblings of the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers having interest. And then… Well, nothing. There has been a deafening silence the past five days. What is happening? How crazy is it that a 28 year old former MVP is still on the market? Rose may not be the explosive player he once was, but it is puzzling to see a guard with his talent still available.
So why is Rose still a free agent? First, lets address the basketball issues. In his first year with the Knicks, Rose put up his best field goal percentage since his sophomore season. However, while his shooting from the field improved, his three point percentage tanked from an already bad 29.3% to an abysmal 21.7%. In the modern NBA, the importance of the three pointer is undeniable. Teams care about spacing, they want the floor to be spread. Rose’s terrible three point shooting is a huge negative. On the bright side, Rose cut back on his turnovers per game despite the fact he was playing more minutes. After averaging 20 points and 4.9 assists a game last season, it is clear that Rose still has gas in the tank.
Maybe the issue is something more than his basketball skills. The fall of Rose has been hard to watch. It is hard to watch anyone’s career get derailed by injuries, but it becomes even more difficult to watch injuries hamper such a young, explosive, and talented player like Rose. It appears that Rose has struggled to understand his place in the league after his many injuries. Ian Begley reported in January that Rose would be seeking a $150 million contract this offseason. Rose most definitely is not worth that kind of contract in 2017. Perhaps Rose has been demanding an unreasonable salary, and teams have been too wise to offering it to him.
One other factor that cannot be underestimated is the number of quality point guards in the NBA. Last season, the Mavericks were able to sign the undrafted Yogi Ferrell to a two year deal for the minimum. Ferrell winded up starting 29 of the 36 games he played with the Mavericks, giving them quality minutes on a small deal. Maybe this is the key to the lack of interest in Rose: there are simply too many good point guards. How many teams really need a point guard right now? The Sacramento Kings, Mavericks, and Knicks all went into the offseason with holes at point guard, but all three teams drafted a guard in the lottery (plus the Kings signed George Hill). The Knicks could bring Rose back and play rookie Frank Ntilikina off the ball, but it is unclear about if the Knicks front office views Ntilikina as more of an off guard or point guard. Regardless, there is an abundance of point guards, and Rose does not seem to want to sign for cheap. If Rose is demanding a $15 million a year deal, would teams not be better off rolling the dice on a cheaper option and save that cap space for a position that is less stacked with talent?
Rose is in a difficult position. The former MVP is one of the best free agents remaining, but his options appear to be limited. Who would have thought that it would ever come to this for the youngest MVP the league has ever seen. It will be interesting to see how this story ends, but there is no doubt that Rose still belongs in the NBA. Though a return to the Knicks does not sound particularly appealing, it may be the best option left for Rose.