By J.M. Poulard
When heading out to a fast food restaurant, one can choose to pick up a hamburger solo, or perhaps add a beverage and a set of fries to accompany the burger. The drink and fries aren’t necessarily a must, but they help make the meal a tad better.
In a nutshell, that’s how one should view Derrick Rose’s decision to sign on with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a one-year deal at the league minimum.
The Cavs understand that they are receiving a player who brings a different dimension to their team and can help Cleveland compete for a return to the Finals with or without Kyrie Irving.
The latter requested a trade a few weeks ago and if completed, it would leave Cleveland short an elite perimeter playmaker.
If the Cavs had their way, they would pair Irving and Rose together in a marriage that would likely pose a few problems for opponents. However, Cleveland is operating under the premise they will receive a “king’s ransom” for the 25-year-old Irving, per ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, which suggests it is looking at all of its options toward the completion of a deal.
In other words, assume Rose will be the Cavaliers’ starting point guard in the fall unless a Kyrie trade brings in a more talented player at the position.
For those who failed to spend any time watching the New York Knicks – who could blame you – it may surprise some to find out that Rose was a good player last season on a 31-51 Knicks team. Per 36 minutes, the 2011 MVP averaged 20 points and 4.9 assists on 47.1 percent shooting.
Although he’s not the explosive leaper from six years ago, Rose can still blow past defenders with relative ease due to his combination of quickness and ball handling.
When reviewing film on Rose’s 2016-17 campaign, it becomes fairly obvious that when faced with single coverage, he can get to the rim and finish. Rose becomes more so dangerous in the pick-and-roll when a big man switches onto him. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to get inside the paint and create damage via a high-percentage look or a pass out to a perimeter shooter.
The tools Rose has at his disposal should make him a tough cover in a Cleveland offense that utilizes the pick-and-roll as a trigger for everything else.
For instance, they can fake the pick-and-roll to get the help defender out of position and then go to an isolation or simply have the faking screener then set a pindown screen to free up a shooter.
It will take Rose some getting used to given LeBron calls out most of the sets to take advantage of mismatches; a strategy that often leads to the offense grinding to a halt when James sits because Cleveland has no other player smart enough to dissect a defense—not even Kyrie.
In a perfect world, head coach Tyronn Lue implements a system in the fall, which gives Rose an opportunity to direct the offense and find his way next to his all-world teammate.
In the event Lue maintains the status quo, Rose will still feel like a vital cog with Cleveland encouraging him to attack both in transition and against poor individual defenders.
Remember, the Cavaliers are loaded with shooters (J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Kevin Love), and on a LeBron James-led team, that’s gold.
The Cavaliers are built to accommodate James’ strengths—driving and passing—which means opponents cannot consistently occupy the paint defensively without getting burned. Consequently, Rose will rarely see a multitude of defenders impeding his path.
It’s a setting in which Irving strived in, and Rose will be able to recreate a fraction of Irving’s magic.
Rose is, after all, a shifty player who finishes just about as well in the paint. The biggest difference, and it’s a big one, between Rose and Irving is the shooting.
Kyrie can attack every scheme meant to contain him because of his ball-handling wizardry, change of speed and shooting proficiency. He’s a lethal off-the-dribble shooter and is just as deadly spotting up.
Those are glaring holes in Rose’s game, and Cleveland will have to change up some of what they do to make up for that.
His career 29.8 percent three-point stroke suggests that the point guard isn’t much of a floor spacer. Thus, it’s easy to abandon him on the perimeter whenever LeBron ventures into the post or starts eying the paint from the perimeter.
Further compounding that, Rose isn’t much of an off-ball mover. He tends to remain stationary in one spot content to watch the offense unfold from a far.
Rose might want to study tape of Dwyane Wade – similar skill set – when he played alongside James. It took some time to get used to, but the tandem eventually came to understand how and when each other liked to cut toward the hoop. Those timely plays are perfect ways to take advantage of defenses that pack the paint.
What’s more, the coaching staff can implement a few wrinkles directly tied to its newest acquisition.
For instance, the Cavs can simply run more handoff plays to give Rose a head of steam against a backpedalling defender, or simply re-screen his defender whenever he goes under in pick-and-rolls.
The Rose addition is a plus for a Cavaliers team desperate for a third playmaker during last year’s run. He could have played that role this season next to James and Irving and possibly make the Golden State Warriors sweat just a little if the teams met again in the Finals.
But Rose is now Irving’s replacement, and he’s not quite the same calibre of player. The Cavaliers will get an opportunity to play in the title round again, and Rose will sparingly contribute, but it’s tough to envision him fitting better than Kyrie given his shaky jumper and potential durability concerns.
If you’re expecting Rose to be a burger, he will fail to live up to those expectations. But fries, he can do.