Premature Evaluation looks at how certain rookies seem to be fitting in at this point in their very young careers, and what the next year looks like for them. It's based on an extremely limited set of information like summer league, and roster changes that we haven't seen in action yet. So we're jumping the gun by far, and we're aware of it. The biggest reason we want to do this is to look at just how different things seem after the useless summer league before the season. A year from now, we expect to look back at these and be stunned by how wrong we were. But we're all about looking at things way ahead of time, and in that spirit, here's the first in our Premature Evaluations series, regarding Chicago point guard Derrick Rose.
So we've taken a look at Rose's pure point skills and where they match up with Gordon and Hinrich. Common consensus over at Blog-A-Bull seems to be that Hinrich is expendable because he's not a playmaker, and Ben Gordon is not expendable, because he's offensively solid. Elsewhere, Bulls fans feel that Derrick Rose is the next coming of something between Chris Paul, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. Now, I've made it pretty clear in other forums that I don't necessarily think either line of thinking is on the money. But for the sake of this analysis, let's throw that out completely.
The Bulls are, as we all know, obscenely loaded at guard. Well, maybe not loaded. How about overstocked? Larry Hughes, jacking machine extraordinaire, Kirk Hinrich, king of the underwhelming, and Ben Gordon ... um.... yeah. Ben Gordon (This is one of those "if you can't say anything that doesn't piss off Blog-A-Bull's readers, don't say anything at all" moments.)
Before we look at how Rose fits in, though, let's examine where Rose is at right now. In summer league, Rose was unimpressive, but he was unimpressive in the way that you want your #1 pick to be. He looked nervous, and a little shell-shocked. His shot wasn't on and he was out of rhythm. You'll notice that none of these things are inherently damaging to his odds of being a quality pro. When he did manage to attack the basket and display his handle, he showed the talent to be a top level pro. However, he didn't show the same kind of passing skills that people were perhaps hoping for. Or even the kind that Russell Westbrook showed.
Since the lottery, it's tended to come across that I don't think Rose will be a good pro. Quite the opposite. I think Rose will be a great pro. I'm just not sure he'll be what Bulls fans think he'll be, or hope he'll be. It's not just the pure point analysis, it's the fact that last season he was best in Memphis when he was attacking the basket in transition and lighting up opponents with his offense. I feel like he could be a faster, quicker, more talented Ben Gordon. A combo guard with more combinations. But since the Bulls already have a scoring guard who can shoot and produce a lot of points, and another one who can shoot a lot, even if the shots are ill advised, and since Hinrich's biggest weakness is in creating offense, the expectation is for Rose to initiate the offense. With where his game is at now, though, it might be better if he's allowed to be a component of the offense until he can be a focal point. I do think with the right coaching he could definitely be cultivated into a true point guard. But with where his game has been for the last twelve months, it seems like a risky proposition. So let's think about what happens if the Bulls make a roster move in the backcourt.
The popular notion is to trade Hinrich. Ditch the bum! So then you have two combo guards, one who considers himself the primary scorer and who ends up running ISO a lot, and the other a rookie combo guard trying to get his teammates involved, a roster notorious for it's offensive inconsistency. It's not that it can't work, but you now have little to no floor leadership and a series of talents trying to coordinate the offense with no central cohesion. That's the wost case scenario. Best case scenario is that Deng is able to be the all around stat filler providing a spark on both ends of the floor, while Gordon takes on a leadership role as Rose takes to being a facilitator and picking his spots as he grows.
Option two, which might make everyone happy, is to trade Larry Hughes. Getting past the inordinate amount of barbiturates you would need to hustle off Hughes two remaining years, with next year coming in at a cool $13.6, tossing Hughes gives the Bulls a chance to develop Rose at their, and his, own pace. He still needs to be the starter by April, but it gives you time for him to ease into scoring behind Gordon, and learn to work the offense behind Hinrich. Gordon is the model scoring guard, Hinrich the crafty guy that helps with defense. From there, Rose's own natural talent takes care of the rest. Of course, this will never happen, since like we said, Hughes might as well be a leper.
Option C is to sign and trade Gordon. Despite my concerns over Gordon's contract and skillset, it's clear that Chicago has quite a bit of faith in him. Well, the fanbase at least. And given Chicago's offensive woes over the last few years, following a policy of holding on to your positive offensive assets while jettisoning your negative ones certainly seems logical. I tend to think of restructuring things by replacing an inferior primary scorer with a superior one, but as Blog-A-Bull reminds us, good, while not as valuable as great, is still better than bad. So trading Gordon would probably not be a very good idea. This puts the offense squarely in Rose's hands, which is likely to cause quite a bit of a shock to the guy and could stunt his development. Not to mention it means extensive minutes for Larry Hughes. While a combination of Hinrich handling the defense and bringing the ball up court and Rose being the sparkplug seems like a perfectly acceptable plan, it's traditionally better to have the proven offensive asset. So in that spirit, the call is to keep Gordon.
The last option is of course to do nothing. The worrisome scenario here is you and me and Larry Hughes makes three turns not into a fiery competition where leadership is forged and the cream rises, but a Darwinian nightmare in which Hinrich can't trust anybody because he doesn't know when he's being traded, Gordon can't trust anyone because he wants to be the man, Rose has no one to help guide him into the NBA game and doesn't get a solid rhythm of rotation, and Hughes... well... is Hughes. But there is always the alternative. After all, all of these guys are professionals. With Hinrich just coming in and doing his job, offering advice when solicited and playing defense when he's supposed to, with Gordon taking the reins of the franchise along with Deng and being the offensive frontal attack, Hughes doing what he does but in limited, valuable minutes, and Rose absorbing all of it, it could create an amalgam that lifts them up into a solution that is amicable and agreeable.
So the best and safest option is probably to follow the Blog-A-Bull advice and ditch Hinrich. From there, the good news is that you have Rose surrounded by a proven scorer who can light it up in the clutch, an athletic small forward that can do all the little things, a super athletic power forward who's too raw for his age but could benefit from a point guard with speed, the firebug Joakim Noah, with Hughes and Gooden providing veteran scoring and leadeship, and Nocioni running around like a wombat loaded on methamphetamines. It makes for a solid lineup for him to grow into and take the reins, to get used to the NBA culture and define himself.
I guess in the end, that's the biggest deciding factor from where I'm at with Rose. Everyone thinks they know what he is. But I'm not sure even he does. He's an immensely talented basketball player that will play the point guard position (his handle's too strong for him to play the two. Even if he's not a pure point, I don't think it's a bad thing.) But the best decision VDN can make is to let Rose develop into whatever it is that he is, instead of trying to mold him into a certain type of player or position. If his play style ends up feinting and deceptive, don't try and make him fierce. If he's dynamic and visionary, don't send him charging at the basket. If he's aggressive and acerbic, don't try and get him to cuddle the offense. Let him develop into the player he's meant to be. He wasn't drafted so high because of his potential to be any certain kind of player, he was drafted because of his ability to basketball things well.
Let him find out what they are.