A Healthy Derrick Rose Can Lead the Knicks Back into the Playoff Hunt

The 2021-22 NBA season has been anything but pleasant for the New York Knicks. After a campaign in which the Knicks all but established themselves as the darlings of the league, they’ve gone through a tumultuous series of events en route to a 25-34 record coming out of All-Star Weekend. Still, the Knicks are within striking distance of a spot in the play-in tournament, and Derrick Rose can help lead them there.

An ankle injury has sidelined Rose since Dec. 16. But he’s nearing a return and should immediately bolster New York’s backcourt.

The Knicks and Kemba Walker agreed that Cardiac Kemba would sit the remainder of the season. That move paves the way for more Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride minutes, but it also clears the way for Rose to resume starting point guard duties when he officially returns.

New York cannot ask D-Rose to resume playing quickly enough. He had a clear impact when healthy and can play a pivotal role in one last playoff push.

Derrick Rose offers more dynamic scoring and playmaking at the point

Rose offers the Knicks more at the 1 than anyone else on the roster for starters.

Alec Burks is shooting a horrendous 37.2% on twos and averaging just 2.7 assists. He’s been pretty awful as a starter, with a true shooting percentage below 50%.

RJ Barrett can score the ball, but he’s more of a combo guard. Grimes is really a true 2-guard with 3-and-D-and-more (as ESPN’s Zach Lowe might say) tendencies, and McBride has barely even had his cup of coffee in the NBA.

Alternatively, Rose provides everything the Knicks currently need. He can drive past defenders off the dribble and finish through traffic or kick out to open shooters. The 2010-11 MVP shot the ball efficiently from deep at the start of the season, posting a 40.2% clip on 3.5 attempts per game. That also allows him to attack closeouts and force defenses to make decisions.

The dynamism to Rose’s game is something the Knicks have lacked in the past couple of months. Additionally, the 33-year-old has a way of elevating his teammates.

Rose makes everyone else better

New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose warms up before an NBA game against the Golden State Warriors in February 2022
Derrick Rose warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 10, 2022 | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Derrick Rose spent time away from the Knicks after undergoing ankle surgery. Just seeing D-Rose back with the club enlivened his teammates.

Rose rejoined the Knicks at the practice facility in January. His presence alone seemed to New York’s spirits. But the positive energy soon turned dour. The Knicks are just 3-13 since Jan. 17. They are 12th in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot.

Why have the Knicks struggled so badly? The answer to that question isn’t so simple, but Rose’s absence definitely contributed to the losing.

In 637 minutes with Rose on the floor, the Knicks outscored opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions. Without the Chicago native in the lineup, opponents have outscored New York by 3.4 points per 100 possessions.

Rose has never been the best defender, but his understanding of head coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme and connectivity on that end seemed to pay dividends for the Knicks. They gave up 7.8 points fewer per 100 possessions with the three-time All-Star running the point.

Another thing to consider is how much better Rose makes guys like Burks and Barrett by allowing them to play off the ball. According to NBA.com, D-Rose has a +7.3 net rating in 208 minutes with Barrett and a +5.9 net rating in 421 minutes with Burks.

The numbers indicate Rose’s importance. He still leads the Knicks with a +2.1 box plus-minus. Can his return help spur a playoff push?

The Knicks have their work cut out

New York has to buckle down if it hopes to even reach the play-in tournament. Can Rose spark something similar to the last season’s 19-game sprint?

Rose and the Knicks went 15-4 to end the 2021-22 campaign. They’ll need a similar run to sniff the playoffs this time around.

The Eastern Conference is as deep as it has been in years. The Knicks have no chance of earning a guaranteed playoff spot, given they are a full 8.5 games behind the No. 6-seeded Boston Celtics. Not to mention, New York has a challenging closing schedule.

The Knicks come out of the All-Star break with a showdown against the Miami Heat, followed by a home-and-away against the Philadelphia 76ers. They then start a West Coast swing that begins against the Phoenix Suns. Yikes.

Still, there’s good news for New York. Julius Randle is having his best month of the season thus far, which is immensely important to the Knicks ‘ playoff hopes. Every bit as crucial is Rose, who is impactful enough a player to propel his squad to a play-in spot.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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