A few days ago, when the Cavs’ interest in Derrick Rose was first reported, his role was more obvious and less consequential. Maybe the timing was off considering they had already signed Jose Calderon. But for all his flaws, Rose for one-year, $2.1 million to play 12-15 minutes a game behind Kyrie Irving was fine.
Now, it’s possible that Rose could be playing a much bigger role. In a post Irving trade request world, Rose would seem to be the Cavs’ current starter at point guard now that he’s signed with the Cavs and an Irving deal seems inevitable. That could change — many speculated Irving deals have the Cavs acquiring a replacement starting point guard — but Rose would seem to be a part of the team’s replacement plan. According to cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, Cleveland did talk to Rose about how to reach the Finals without Irving. It’s unclear what type of role they promised him.
Whatever role Rose ends up filling, there are questions about his fit. For his career, he’s never been an effective three-point shooter — 29.8 percent for his career, 21.7 percent last season with the Knicks — and he’s not an off-ball threat. Last year, on a measly 0.6 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, he shot 20.5 percent.
By comparison, Irving shot 48.2 percent on 2.3 catch-and-shoot attempts last season while shooting 40.1 percent from three overall. Deron Williams, for his part, shot 41.5 percent from three and 45.2 percent on 1.3 catch-and-shoot attempts. Shooting, dating back to his time with the Heat, is something LeBron James has always gotten from his point guards; Rose almost certainly will be ignored when he roams behind the three-point line. Just watch as Jrue Holiday ignores Rose like someone ignoring their TV when Suicide Squad comes on HBO:
Where Rose could still provide some value is in the in the pick-and-roll. He’s not as explosive as he was back in his MVP season — numerous leg injuries, including a torn meniscus last season, have hampered his athleticism — but he’s at his best going downhill towards the rim:
He also, when not trying to do too much, makes the right simple reads. As a second or third creator on a team with a lot of shooters, there’s a lot of value in plays like this:
With the Knicks, Rose finished in the 74th percentile as a pick and roll ball handler, per nba.com/stats, while turning the ball over 10.9 percent of the time. And he was ninth in shooting percentage among players with at least 250 attempts as pick-and-roll ballhander. Is it a play you can build part of the offensive around in the Cavs built their offensive around letting Irving do Irving things? No, and the Cavs would be wise to find ways to shift creation duties onto Kevin Love if Irving does depart. Rose is an ok cutter and finishes well off passes inside, so perhaps this is a way the Cavs could tweak their offense to make better use of Love and work in a player who couldn’t be more different than Irving.
Calderon, based on his age and last season, appears to be washed up at this point and Kay Felder, after an average summer league showing, appears unready to be handed an NBA role. Also worth noting: Irving has always had the rep of being an unwilling passer and he had a higher assistant percentage than Rose last season.
Defensively, it’s hard to see how Rose helps one the league’s worst units. At his peak, he was a physical defender capable of using his strength to wear on oppositions. Now, at 28 and with a lot of miles on his body, it’s not really part of his game anymore. And as rated by dPRM, Rose was just slightly worse on defensive last season than Irving.
The real question about Rose’s role depends on what else the Cavs do this summer. If they acquire another guard to be a starter, Rose could find an effective role. Play him on bench units with Kyle Korver and Channing Frye and Cleveland could have a formula that works.
But his fit a starter, and in any lineups, with LeBron are a bit tricker. If the Cavs decide to roll the dice on rehabilitating Rose an Irving replacement, there a obvious things he will do to muck up Cleveland’s offense. Teams will double off of Rose and make it harder for the Cavs’ attack to flow. Anywhere he’s on the floor, teams will help off. He’d be unplayable next to Iman Shumpert. And at this point his career, Rose isn’t a starter, much less a Finals starting one. The Warriors, and the Celtics and the Wizards and Rockets, all win if Rose ends up as a starter.
So, what will the Cavs do? Will they get an Eric Bledsoe or some other starting guard in an Irving trade, sending Rose to the bench? Or will they hand him the job of replacing Irving in larger way, if not directly? What Cleveland decides could determine how adding Rose looks in retrospect a year from now.