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Can D-Rose Be Kyrie-Lite For The Cavs?

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As Kyrie Irving has his sights set on possibly greener pastures, can newly-signed Derrick Rose fill his role?

The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title in 2016, and have been a perennial Finals contender (lock?) since LeBron James returned from his South Beach sabbatical. Yet in the 2017 offseason, the sky is falling again in Cleveland: LeBron-favored GM David Griffin has gotten the boot, and the NBA’s second-worst owner (thank you, James Dolan) is pushing stars away, giving fans 2010 déjà vu. With LeBron considering free agency, star Kyrie Irving is trying to push his way out, and it looks like he will be gone before long. Who is set up to replace him? 2011 MVP Derrick Rose.  

Photo: Tannen Maury-AP Photo

As it seems with every decision surrounding the beleaguered Rose, this admittedly low-risk move was incredibly polarizing: it was either lavishly praised or panned on social media. The good news for Cleveland fans, regardless of how much Rose “has left in the tank,” is that they picked up a solid player for the veteran’s minimum. After a bounceback 2016-17 season that saw Rose pocket $21.3 million, he will make just $2.1 million in 2017-18 with Cleveland.

Rose is a great value at the veteran’s minimum. Despite his earlier intention to seek a max contract this offseason, he quickly understood the value of his services, choosing a (likely) starting role for a championship contender than more money off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers. While fans and analysts love to throw around adjectives like “vintage” or “explosive,” he is not that player anymore, and with LeBron’s skillset, he should not have to be. 


While “D-Rose is back!” may be an overstatement, his 2016 campaign with the Knicks was a success, with tempered expectations. It is proper to say that he had his biggest impact season since 2014, or maybe even his 2011 MVP campaign, averaging 18.0 PPG, 4.4 assists and 2.3 turnovers (career low) on 47.1% shooting from the field, his best percentage since the 2009-10 season. He might be a far cry from his MVP form, but he still proved to be a capable NBA starter for New York.

As he will most likely be expected to take over Kyrie Irving’s starting role, it seems only fair to compare their numbers from last season. For the Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, Irving averaged 25.2 PPG, 5.8 assists and 2.5 turnovers on (a career high) 47.3% shooting. These are incredibly similar numbers, and they are very comparable in average minutes (Rose: 32.5, Irving: 35.1) and usage rate (Rose: 25.7, Irving: 30.8).

The same knock on both Rose and Irving’s game is their inability, or unwillingness, to impact the game on the defensive end. These reputations are certainly earned; amongst starting guards, Rose and Irving ranked 126th and 100th in defensive win shares respectively last season. In terms of defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), they ranked 131st (111.1 points) and 111th (109.1 points) respectively. Irving alone allowed 49.9% shooting against him from the field, while Rose held opponents to a better 42.6%.  

One area that Irving is far superior to Rose (and one of the most important aspects of the modern NBA game) is 3-point shooting. Shooting from behind the arc has never been a strength for Rose, which is one of the biggest reasons (besides injury) that his stock has fallen so quickly. For the Knicks in 2016-17, Rose shot a putrid 21.7% from deep, well below the league average of 35.8%. Irving, on the other hand, shot an excellent 40.1% and displayed a knack for clutch shooting and an ability to shake off tough defense. 


Now for the real question: How can Derrick Rose play alongside LeBron James and the rest of the Cavs’ nearly-washed roster? The answer is probably just about the same as Irving, for better or worse. The athleticism is there for both players (Irving averaged 57.5% at the rim in 5.8 attempts, Rose 54.7 in 7.1 attempts), and they are both amongst the premier finishers in the league.   

With that athleticism comes well-chronicled chronic knee injuries: Irving famously broke his left knee cap in the 2015 Finals and continues to deal with tendonitis, while Rose had his Knicks tenure cut short with another torn meniscus on March 29th. It’s an old song, but it’s still catchy: Derrick Rose can be a solid NBA player for your team, as long as he can stay healthy. 


Yet, we arrive at the first point again: throw injuries and preconceived notions out the window, and Cavalier fans should be ecstatic to get a player of Rose’s caliber for the vet’s minimum. The numbers bear it out, and so does the eye-test; Rose can be a Kyrie-lite for LeBron’s squad, which is still all but guaranteed a ECF appearance this season, at least.

Cleveland fans should not be surprised when LeBron once again works his magic and drags an average roster of former Knicks players to the Finals. Rose is past his prime for sure, but James often elevates players around him, and there’s reason to believe that he can do it again for D-Rose. If he can even duplicate his 2016-17 stats (while possibly upping the assists), fans should consider him a complete steal for $2.1 million. Until the season starts, we will continue to be deluged with Rose-hospital memes until he can prove he can play deep into the playoffs, but once he gets there…he could be a reasonable facsimile of the star that is currently forcing his way out the door.

Edited by Joe Sparacio.

How many points did Kyrie Irving score when he was named MVP of the 2014 All-Star Game?
Created 7/25/17
  1. 30
  2. 31
  3. 34
  4. 35

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