Looking at Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday
Since my last piece, the Knicks are 4–2. Derrick Rose is averaging 19.8 ppg on 48% shooting, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game and he has shot 6 free throws per game, double his season average. Holiday has spent the past two games starting for Courtney Lee, and the Knicks have begun to improve their play despite a difficult schedule. Both players are major reasons for the Knicks’ success thus far, and have played their best basketball the past few weeks.
Many thought the addition of Justin Holiday was a throw-in to the Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah trade to ensure matching salaries. In fact, Holiday has become the Knicks’ top wing option off the bench, and has outplayed Langston Galloway in New Orleans, the guard he replaced. Holiday is shooting 37% from three, averaging 2 steals and a block per 36 minutes and he draws fouls at double the rate of Galloway. Watch below as he uses his body position, length and quickness to force a turnover on Zach LaVine.
His intuitive feel for the game has been a surprise thus far. On the play below, Holiday exemplifies his understanding of the triangle offense as he executes a give-and-go on the weak side pinch post with Kyle O’Quinn. Holiday adjusts, passes up a contested jumper, and sees there is no defensive help on a potential roll to the basket with the three defenders occupied on the overloaded triangle. He cuts immediately after the pass for an open backdoor layup.
Holiday also makes a deflection and provides perfect help on the play below, which was their best defensive possession of the season. Despite a switch that forced Rose onto Karl-Anthony Towns, the Knicks were active on this possession that resulted in a block by Carmelo Anthony and subsequent layup in transition. Holiday covers the most ground on the action. He begins the play helping off LaVine on the drive into the paint. As the ball swings to his side, he sprints out to deny LaVine on the perimeter. He follows LaVine across the three point line, makes a play on the ball at the top of the key, recovers back onto LaVine, contests two pump fakes without leaving his feet, and helps the baseline trap on Towns while removing LaVine as a passing option.
Defense like this has been crucial to the Knicks’ success in the past three weeks. It reflects the opposite attention as their pick and roll coverage from just two weeks prior. Rose also played superb defense on the play above, and has been impressive over the past stretch of games. Beyond his offensive prowess, Rose has shown ability to control his body defensively and make stretches of games difficult for opposing point guards.
He has regained elite speed and acceleration, as evident in this chase-down block on Kemba Walker.
In Knicks’wins, Rose has a solid defensive rating of 104.1. In their losses, that plummets to a dreadful 115.7. According to ESPN, his Defensive Real Plus-Minus of -2.29 is tied for 79th among qualified point guards, a bit above guys like Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. So, while he has not played well on D overall, the ability is there and improvement is reasonable.
A second dichotomy in Knicks’ wins and losses is Rose’s carelessness.
In Knicks wins, both Rose’s assist ratio and assist to turnover ratio are drastically improved. It is logical that when Rose is committing fewer turnovers and sharing the ball more often, the Knicks are more likely to be successful, however, the graph above shows almost a 30% difference in assist-to-turnover ratio despite a 2% difference in overall assist percentage.
When Rose looks to distribute, he can be an effective passer. He often delivers passes slightly late, as he tends to wait to draw a help defender.
Sometimes that can be a benefit and allows the recipient of the pass a clearer shot, however, it can and often gives defenders time to contest open jumpers.
One area that Rose has shown improvement is his driving ability and quality of shots at the rim, which has increased his finishing percentage.
Of players averaging 10 or more drives per game, Rose is 3rd in field goal percentage behind John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. He makes 4.6 shots per game within 10 feet, which is 3rd in the league, and is shooting 53.8% on those shots, better than the 2nd ranked player by frequency of attempts (Russell Westbrook). His first step is decisive and explosive, and once he gets to the spot he wants he will find himself at the rim for a layup.
Rose shows an incredible ability to maintain body control while handling the ball, and is an adept scorer out of the pick-and-roll.
Now that teams are beginning to realize he has some explosiveness back, Rose has had to adjust his shot-selection in the paint. Here he uses a little Dream-shake to fool Demarcus Cousins.
On this play, Rose uses Andrew Wiggins’ own move, the spin off the hard drive left. Watch how he initiates the pivot the moment Wiggins is off-balance.
When Rose is engaged defensively, distributing the ball effectively and getting to the rim, the Knicks are a net-positive team. When he is careless on the defensive end and while handling the ball, their effectiveness slips quickly.
The Knicks’ success also rides largely on the shoulders of Justin Holiday. In victories, Holiday plays an extra few minutes per game, and has a true shooting percentage of 55% compared to 44.6% in losses despite an equal usage rate. When both players are on top of their games, the Knicks are successful, and they hope to continue their trend upwards as they face Miami on the road Tuesday evening.