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Friday, December 10, 2010
Assessing Derrick Rose, and basketball

By Henry Abbott

Derrick Rose
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Untouched, as ever: Derrick Rose excels at scoring in the paint without getting fouled.

Beckley Mason and Ethan Sherwood Strauss bat around the notion of Derrick Rose on HoopSpeak. Ethan lands a couple of jabs:
He’s a personality tabula rasa, a man who can’t be bothered to speak even when starring in -- or is it staring in? -- commercials.

Strauss also goes to some trouble to unrevise history as it concerns that epic Celtics vs. Bulls first-round battle two years ago.
This battle is described as an epic duel between Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose. D-Rose was fantastic in Game 1, but after that, he served as little more than a sinkhole through which vital possessions disappeared. Over a 44.7 minute average, Rose notched 19.7 points, 6.4 assists, 5 turnovers while providing defense that delivered Rondo to the hoop with a bus boy’s earnestness.

If this was a duel, Derrick Rose was Alexander Hamilton.

Meanwhile, John Hollinger (Insider) digs into the same topic and offers the full measure of how badly it hurts the Bulls, and Rose's candidacy to be the best point guard in the NBA, that Rose does not get to the line very often.
The unfortunate fact is this: The same things that make Rose so watchable also conspire against him. He's so smooth, so graceful and so explosive that it's fairly easy for him to float past opponents and drop in a layup or to launch his unusually-effective 10-foot floater or to pull up for the J while an opponent watches helplessly from the other side of the screen. Alas, none of those maneuvers get him to the line, and the next time Rose willfully draws contact to force his way there will be a first.

Contrast that, for instance, with Westbrook's bull-in-a-china-shop approach, and there's no question which one is easier on the eyes. Rose's tactic is less effective on the scoreboard because Westbrook is taking twice as many foul shots every night.

Don't get me wrong, Rose is a spectacular performer and a surefire All-Star. If you're making a list of players you'd pay money to see play, there's no question he's in the top 10. All those graceful plays I just mentioned are far more entertaining than watching somebody shoot two flat-footed 15-footers from the line while the other nine players stand and watch.

Still, it's a less effective way to win basketball games. It seems mundane, as though we're nitpicking, to bemoan Rose's lack of free throws, but it's a notable shortcoming when comparing Rose to the other elite players at his position. Until he earns more whistles, Rose won't ascend to the top of the league's point guard mountain.

And right there in the last two paragraphs is pure evidence of what economists would call a poor incentive structure.

Rose is playing precisely how the league, and fans, would like him to play to star in highlights, sell tickets and get people out of their seats high-fiving each other.

Yet, perversely, if he wants to really win, and climb to the top of his profession, he is incented to hone the art of trading the game's best moments -- acrobatic scores in the paint -- for the very worst the NBA has to offer: standing around waiting for free throws.