The Wolves could have up to 10 new faces on the roster next season. Expiring contracts, player options and a restricted free agency could lead to significant roster turnover. It’s unlikely that the team will lose two-thirds of its roster but it seems likely the 2020 Timberwolves will have a different look.
Among the questions the Timberwolves will ask themselves is what to do with Derrick Rose. Rose will turn 31 this season and his early-season performance may pique interest this summer. In the first 35 games of the season, Rose was a flamethrower, connecting 46.2 of his 3.3 3-point attempts per game.
His strong play early in the season helped the Wolves survive injuries to the backcourt and stepped into the starting lineup when needed. Rose’s 50-point Halloween performance against Utah allowed Minnesota to steal a three-point victory.
Was Rose’s performance ever sustainable?
While Rose was invaluable to the team’s early-season play, it was fair to question the sustainability of his play. After all, Rose had missed at least 15 games in every season since 2011– nearly a decade — and averaged 29.8 minutes per game while playing in 32 of the team’s first 35 games.
Sure enough, Rose would go on to miss 19 of the Wolves’ 47 games the rest of the way. First it was a leg injury and then he was eventually shut down for the season with bone chips in his elbow. It’s unlikely the bone chips were a result of overuse but finding an 11-year NBA vet without something they could have surgery for is also unlikely. Regardless, physical issues affected Rose’s ability to stay on the court.
Rose’s sudden hot shooting was also curious. Entering the 2019 season, Rose was a 29.6 3-point shooter over the course of his career and was hitting nearly half of those shots 35 games into the season. Few players become dead-eye shooters after being on pace to become one of the worst shooters in NBA history when he was signed in 2018.
After December 28, Rose regressed violently, shooting just 12.5 percent from beyond the arc the rest of the season. That’s 5-of-40 over 19 games. In today’s NBA where shooting is at a premium, you cannot have a player using over one-quarter of the team’s possessions and shoot like that unless you’re Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It’s likely that a lower-body injury affected his shot but that doesn’t help his cause. Injuries and inefficiency are two common concerns with Rose and both eventually reared their head this season.
Nothing changed except the shots went in
Really, Rose was the same player this season he always was. He made his living fighting through contact to get in the rim and an ability to hit contested mid range shots. When the shots are falling, it’s great. When they’re not, you wonder why Rose has the second-highest usage on the team. There are other things that stand out when looking at his body of work this season:
● Rose accounted for a decent 26.3 percent of the team’s assists when he was on the floor, fourth to Isaiah Canaan, Tyus Jones and Jeff Teague.
● Despite his strong shooting from behind the arc early on, Rose finished 10th in true shooting percentage on the team.
● Rose finished 11th on the team in offensive rating behind Robert Covington, Luol Deng and Gorgui Dieng.
Rose actually went from getting to the rim 40 percent of the time in 2018 to less than 30 percent this season while taking more long 2-pointers. Rose’s free throw rate dropped to .212 this season, his lowest since 2014 and a far cry from his MVP days. If a player isn’t hitting outside shots, getting to the rim or drawing fouls, it’s difficult to be efficient in today’s NBA.
SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson has reported that the most the Wolves can offer Rose this summer is four years and $36 million. Paying Rose $9 million per year into his mid-30s when injury and efficiency issues have persisted is undesirable.
In fact, what is likely best for Rose at this point in his career is a 15-20-minute per game role off of the bench that allows him to play through a full season and into the postseason. Rose was effective for Minnesota in the 2018 playoffs when he had weeks off during the season in Cleveland and after his release from the Jazz.
We’ve seen now that playing him around 30 minutes per game isn’t ideal for the team or the player. Rose could thrive for the next 4-5 years destroying other teams’ backups and extend his career.