It’s an NBA analysis buzz word over the last few years. Between the rise of the statistic in basketball circles and the use of efficient shots and shooters to define teams, it has become a shameful thing to be associated with.
Josh Smith is attempting to recover from the inefficiency – among many, many other issues on the court – designation. Some look at Kemba Walker as taking over the crown of inefficiency soon. Monta Ellis only shook the label after hooking up with Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. But one name has only been attached to this through whispers. Derrick Rose.
One year after playing just 10 games, Rose has finally returned to something close to pre-injury usage. He has played 38 of the Bulls 49 games on the season, is averaging 30.7 minutes per game, and has played 36, 42, and 43 minutes in his last three games respectively. Those are his first 40 minute games since April 15, 2012, against the Detroit Pistons.
Chicago has had a mercurial season with Rose back, Jimmy Butler taking the next step, and a revitalized Pau Gasol, but sit at a healthy 30-19. A quick look at Rose’s numbers makes some viewers nervous.
Derrick Rose 2014-15 Season Stats
The very scary number in that line is the 40.8% on FGs. The first clue to inefficiency. No small part of that percentage is Rose shooting 29.9% from behind the three-point line on an absurd 5.6 attempts per game.
All of this needs to be taken with a healthy grain of salt. This doesn’t mean that Rose is taking all bad shots or that he is working outside the offense. In the starting lineup, the Bulls feature Butler (32.9% on 3.1 3PA), Tony Snell (30.3% on 1.7 3PA) or Mike Dunleavy (41.7% on 4.4 3PA), and Pau Gasol (36.4% on 0.2 3PA) to go with Rose as the “floor spacers.”
It should come as no surprise that with Dunleavy out due to injury, the Bulls are struggling to space the floor and have seen their offensive rating drop from 106.2 to 103.2. This goes along with a drop from 36.7% to 33.9% in 3P%. Aaron Brooks, Nikola Mirotic, and Kirk Hinrich are shooting well from three-point land, but none are in the starting lineup for separate but equal and defensible reasons.
This is all to say that Rose is being entrusted by the coaching staff to space the floor. Drawing in his defenders when he goes around pick and rolls and making sure they don’t cheat off of him when others use the paint. Tom Thibodeau is trusting that the reputation of Rose and what players see in a game overcomes the advanced scouting and game planning that says leaving Rose alone behind the three-point line is just fine.
This offensive game plan might not be working. Time and time again, Rose’s defenders are going under screens at the three-point line, allowing Rose an open look at the basket. And he’s taking it much more often than he probably should. The video below is set to a clip that shows Rose’s defender going under a screen. He hits this shot, but it isn’t a common occurrence.
The percentages aren’t the biggest issue. Rose is 63rd out of 68 players in 3P% when you filter for players that take four or more attempts per game. 5.6 3PA per game is good for 16th in the league. The huge chasm between 16th in attempts and 63rd in percentage (players that take more than 4 per game) shows the inefficiency from three without much question.
While his shooting from deep is one of the biggest concerns, Rose is not converting inside the paint at his old rates. In his MVP season, Rose ranked 57th in the league in FG% in the restricted area for guards at 58.1% and got the foul line 6.9 time per game.1 This year, Rose is 86th in the league for guards at 51.5% in the restricted area and is only getting to the line 3.7 times per game.2
On driving layups and miscellaneous layups, categorized by NBA.com, Rose is shooting 50.7% on 130 attempts so far this year. That’s good for 3.4 of those types of shots per game. In 2010-11, Rose shot 55.6% on layups and took 397 such shots or 4.9 per game.3 According to NBA.com’s SportVU data, Rose is taking 7.4 drives per game, 24th in the league, but much lower than a player with his athleticism in the restricted area and distance shooting numbers should be taking.4
Ellis had a slightly different problem in his inefficiency days. He got to the hoop at a consistent rate and shot well in the restricted area, but everything outside the restricted area became a low percentage shot. His percentage in the restricted area has consistently hovered around 58% while everything outside of that dropped to the mid 30s at best in his worst years.
The fact that the former-MVP is driving to the basket 1.5 less times per game could account for the lack of foul calls or he might be drawing contact less on those drives. He could be taking more open lanes than driving into a packed paint. Maybe the extreme and consistent athleticism is just gone after the injuries. If you’re a Chicago fan, you might think the refs are out to get Rose and they’re leaving him high and drive on marginal calls.
I don’t buy it. Rose just isn’t being as efficient as he used to be. He was never a bastion of the ideal, tending to drive and draw contact in hopes of drawing the foul on low percentage shots, but it has gotten worse than ever with the switch to more shots from deep.
This isn’t all on Rose, just like Ellis’s struggles weren’t all on him. The way the team is built around these two up and down stars necessitates their overuse and forces them into a role they aren’t built for. For Ellis, it was likely that teams were cheating off defenders to guard him in the mid-range and in the paint – excluding the restricted area. For Rose, it’s likely an attempt to lower the strain on him because of his drives to the basket and a need for someone to take three-point shots.
Inefficiency doesn’t mean you’re a bad player. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in an All-Star game or in conversations for awards. It does mean there is room to improve; both on the player’s part and the coach’s scheme decisions.
Player Efficiency Rating was created by John Hollinger to attempt to isolate…well…efficiency. Like WAR in baseball, it’s a good baseline stat to get an idea of which players may warrant a closer look. Ellis was ranked 107th in the league in 2012-13 with a 16.3 PER. In 2014-15, Rose has a PER of 16.03 and is ranked 103rd. Eerily similar.
All is not lost of course. Ellis sits at 55th with a PER 19.13 now that he is flanked by a great shooting PF and a top notch offensive scheme. Let’s see if Rose can find his efficiency again…he was ninth in PER in his MVP season after all.