Derrick Rose went through a whirlwind of a 2020-21 season. After starting the year with the lowly Detroit Pistons, he was traded to the New York Knicks in February, reuniting with head coach Tom Thibodeau and veteran forward Taj Gibson.
The Knicks’ season changed once they acquired Rose. They went 24-11 with the Chicago native in the lineup and clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference standings. It was the first time James Dolan’s team made the playoffs since 2012-13.
Although New York lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2021 postseason in five games, Rose played extremely well and set himself up for a nice payday in the summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. And after what happened to Coby White and the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, the three-time All-Star finally has a clear path to return home.
Derrick Rose was the Knicks’ best player against the Hawks
In the Knicks’ five-game series against the Hawks, Rose averaged 19.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while shooting 47.6% from the field, 47.1% from beyond the arc, and a perfect 100.0% from the free-throw line. He finished the series with an offensive rating of 114.0.
The Knicks won Game 2 behind Rose’s heroics. He scored 26 points off the bench and helped New York outscore Atlanta 57-35 in the second half.
In Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta, Rose poured in 30 and 18 points, respectively. The Knicks lost both games in blowout fashion, mostly because All-Star power forward Julius Randle was awful. The lefty finished his first playoff series with averages of 18.0 points and 11.6 rebounds while shooting a woeful 29.8% from the floor.
After the Knicks lost Game 5 at home, Rose told the New York media he would love to come back next season but that it’s ultimately not up to him since he knows the Knicks have big plans for the offseason. The team projects to have as much as $50 million in cap space to sign free agents.
While Rose said, “Who wouldn’t want to play for the Knicks or be in New York?” his heart is presumably still in his hometown of Chicago, and this offseason is the perfect time for the Bulls to bring him back.
The Bulls lost Coby White to a shoulder injury
On Thursday, the Bulls announced that Coby White underwent surgery on his left shoulder to repair damage from an injury sustained while engaged in basketball activities away from the team. He will be re-evaluated in four months.
White appeared in 69 games for the Bulls in 2020-21, including 54 starts. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while shooting 41.6% from the floor, 35.9% from beyond the arc, and 90.1% from the free-throw line. The Bulls missed the playoffs despite having two All-Stars on the team in Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. They haven’t seen postseason action since 2016.
Before White hurt his shoulder, the Bulls were expected to pursue point guards this offseason once the free-agency period began. Now is the perfect time to bring Rose back home since the team needs a third dynamic scorer alongside LaVine and Vucevic, and White may not be ready for the start of the 2021-22 season.
While Rose is no longer the high-flying guard he was during his first stint with the Bulls, in which he became the youngest MVP in NBA history, he’s still one of the fastest players in the league despite undergoing four knee surgeries. He averaged 18.0 points with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2018-19, posted 18.1 points per game with the Pistons in 2019-20, and was the Knicks’ best player in the 2021 playoffs. He’s proved he can still score with the best of them, and he’s become a more efficient player over the years as he’s shooting 48.1% from the field since the 2018-19 season.
The Bulls should look into signing Rose this offseason, allowing him to finish his NBA career where it started. It would be a great story and also a beneficial roster move that could help the team make the postseason in 2021-22.
Derrick Rose would fit well with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic
LaVine has established himself as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Meanwhile, Vucevic is a walking double-double and a reliable scoring threat in the post. The Bulls are just missing a veteran point guard who can set each guy up with easy looks and get his own shot off the dribble in the half-court.
Rose’s driving ability would create more open looks for LaVine from the perimeter since the 32-year-old usually draws multiple defenders when he attacks the rim. The 2010-11 MVP’s collapsing of the paint would free up Vucevic for easy shots at the basket. Both veterans could cause damage in the pick-and-roll/pop game as defenders would have to decide if they want to stop Rose’s penetration, cover Vucevic on the roll, or contest his jump shot.
It will be interesting to see if the Bulls pursue Rose in free agency. The White injury is a tough blow, but it opens the door for Chicagoans to see Rose in a Bulls uniform again.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.