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February 10, 2011, 05:21 PM ET
In Which a Different Perspective Shows I Was Wrong About Rose

by Kevin Pelton

In response to yesterday’s take on Derrick Rose’s increased free throw attempts, a lot of observers of the Chicago Bulls have noted that they do feel Rose has altered his game to try to draw more contact. In particular, the clearest bit of evidence of this is Rose himself talking about watching film to try to find ways to get to the line–in particular by taking an extra step on his drives instead of pulling up. As to why I didn’t see this in the tape I watched, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I went through the most recent couple of weeks, and Rose may be reverting back to his old habits to some extent–his FTA/FGA has not been quite as strong lately as it was early in January.

More troubling to me is that what I thought to be some solid evidence about Rose’s shot-location habits not really changing turns out to be less so when we use a different perspective. I divided Rose’s season into two segments–before and after John Hollinger’s column on Rose’s inability to get to the line. As noted, though, it was not until a bit later that Rose really picked up his free throw attempts. We could also draw a line at the turn of the calendar year and compare Rose’s numbers before and after. In this case, we’d find that Rose is, in fact, attempting more shots at the rim. It turns out that the 11 swing games–from Dec. 10, the day Hollinger’s column was posted, to Dec. 31–really muddy up the shot-location data in an unexpected way.

Time              Rim    <10   10-15  16-23   3s
-------------------------------------------------
Through Dec. 9   .297   .155   .097   .257   .195
Dec. 10-31       .230   .162   .108   .255   .245
Since Jan. 1     .328   .116   .089   .244   .224

For about three weeks, Rose fell in love with his newfound three-point range and stopped driving to the basket altogether. Then things changed, and Rose’s numbers in January and February look exactly like what we would expect from Rose altering his game. He’s taking less shots inside of 10 feet and instead getting all the way to the rim on those attempts, where he is more likely to draw fouls. This was obscured by combining the two periods of time during which Rose played very differently.

Now, I still think there is some evidence that Rose is getting more calls, either because he is selling them or referees are giving him the benefit of the doubt. His FTA/FGA ratio dropped only slightly during the period where he wasn’t driving at all (from .264 through December 9 to .240 the rest of the month) and has skyrocketed by a larger amount than his at-rim attempts in January and February (it’s .369). However, looking at the numbers from this perspective makes it evident that Rose has changed his game in an effort to get to the line more.

(Thanks to Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata.com for suggesting this specific change.)

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