What Derrick Rose's Injury Means for the Chicago Bulls and the Eastern Conference
Derrick Rose is injured again.
Rose tore his meniscus in his right knee and will be out for an uncertain amount of time. A timetable won't be set until he has his surgery.
We can lament the derailment of a promising return for a former NBA MVP all we want, but this injury will likely affect the Eastern Conference playoff race as well as the playoffs themselves.
With Rose out yet again, where does that leave the NBA? And how does it affect the Bulls' playoff push?
A Rose By Another Game
It's no news at this point that Rose hasn't been the player of old. The eye test suggests that he's willing to settle for jumpers rather than drive the lane, and the numbers support that, too.
His three-point attempt rate is a career-high 32.3 percent, well above the 24.9 mark in his 2011-12 campaign and his career 17.0 mark. Rose is attempting 5.5 three-pointers per game and making just 1.6, good for just a 28.7 percent success rate. That's pretty easily the worst percentage among the 27 players who attempt at least 5.0 three-pointers per game.
Similarly, his free throw rate is down from 34.4 in 2011-12 to just 22.4. He is attempting a career-low 26.2 percent of his shots from within three feet. His career mark is 31.7 percent. Rose is more reliant on the perimeter than ever before, and that has worsened his overall efficiency.
Excluding last season -- in which Rose played just 311 minutes -- Rose's Win Shares per 48 minutes (.046) are the lowest of his career, just like his nERD. nERD is our calculation for how many wins or losses an average team would be with a given player as a starter. This year, Rose's nERD is -4.9, which would mean that if the rest of the Bulls were replacement level, they'd finish five games below .500. That ranks him 123rd in the NBA among 143 players.
In 2010-11 and 2011-12, though, he averaged a nERD of 10.8.
With Rose not exactly Rose, it's safe to wonder if he was really impacting the team positively to begin with.
In terms of team nERD, the Bulls rank 10th in our power rankings. Their Offensive Rating of 108.1 ranks ninth in the NBA. Last year without Rose, their Offensive Rating was 102.5, 28th in the league.
So Rose is making a difference this year, right? Well...
In 1,428 minutes with Rose on the court, the Bulls post an Offensive Rating of 108.0. In the 1,343 minutes without him, that number is 108.2. Essentially, there's no difference between the Bulls' overall offense with or without Rose.
The team's assist percentage, the rate of field goals led to by assists, takes a slight downtick, sure, from 58.8 to 58.4, but there's little in the numbers to suggest that losing Rose's offense makes the Bulls worse. With Aaron Brooks on the floor, the Bulls have an Offensive Rating of 111.7 in 1,135 minutes. Without him, it's 105.6 in 1,636 minutes.
It's also no news at this point that the Bulls are more generous on defense than in years past. Their Defensive Rating of 104.8 ranks 12th in the NBA, still a solid unit. Last year, though, their Defensive Rating was 100.5, second-best in the NBA.
Without Rose on the floor this year, the Bulls are a better offensive and defensive rebounding team, collecting a 1.3 percent more offensive boards and 1.0 percent more defensive ones. More problematically, though, is that with Kirk Hinrich on the floor, the Bulls snare 3.6 percent fewer defensive rebounds (though just 0.6 percent fewer overall).
Rose's steal percentage of 1.1 is pretty much on par with his career average of 1.2, and the same is true for his 0.7 steals per game (compared to 0.8 for his career). Still, Rose's Defensive Real Plus-Minus of -1.40 ranks just 50th among 93 qualified point guards this season. Hinrich's -0.04 ranks 29th among 104 shooting guards.
Rose's Defensive Rating this year of 108 is just slightly worse than his career average of 107, so Rose hasn't lost it all defensively (for what that's worth), but this coupled with his offensive adjustment period hasn't exactly made the Bulls better.
The Bulls sit at 36-21 and are third in the East right now. According to our algorithms, losing Rose means just 0.5 fewer wins the rest of the way. Their playoff odds still sit at 100.00 percent. The biggest worry is that their NBA Championship odds decline from 5.2 percent to 3.8 percent.
Losing Rose might affect some intangibles, sure, but as for the on-court product, the results are quite small because of Rose's offensive struggles and overall inefficient play.
It's hard not to feel bad for Rose, but as for the Bulls, they should be able to maintain with Brooks (-0.3 nERD), Hinrich (-4.3), and E'Twuan Moore (-0.4) until his potential return.