Derrick Rose is a Knick. Again. That fact is bound to stir up a hornets’ nest of emotions in Knicks fans, but the deal is done, and the time has come for some dispassionate cost-benefit analysis.
So let’s start by examining the cost. If we still have to boil everything down to “lottery pick” when we talk about Dennis Smith Jr., we’re giving him far too much credit and not enough debt. As a prospect, Dennis had eye-catching hops and flashed the potential for some off the dribble scoring chops. Unfortunately the decision making we saw in college never really left his system. This debt of “lottery pick” raises its head again when DSJ is regarded as the only significant return in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Avoiding salary cap hell with a roster that was less talented than the Mavs is honestly just sound decision making. The chance to snare a couple All-NBA level talents and kick the tires on Dennis was the coup de grâce for the frail Latvian.
Whatever buggy you hitched to that horse, the unfolding trail of picks and players in it’s wake is revealing to the inner workings of the front office. Of course there was a changeover to the Leon Rose era, but the pace of moving picks and players has only mounted in his time at the helm. With Dennis Smith specifically, his inattentiveness kept him off the court and has led to him trying to spearhead his own revival in the G-League. Without a doubt, Dennis seems like a great kid but he has officially become a former lottery pick. A glorified toss-in. He may get the opportunity to produce in a Detroit lineup starved for guard production but much like a top-55 protected draft pick, it’s unlikely to convey.
That brings us to the pick New York is sending to the Pistons. It’s one of the second round picks that the Knicks got from Charlotte for Willy Hernangómez. Can you even guess who that guy plays behind now? That pick will hit in the upcoming 2021 draft. The Hornets are battling for a spot in the Eastern playoffs (currently seventh) and if they keep pace, that selection is likely to land somewhere in the 45 region. Not exactly surefire future star territory right there. With the Knicks still having two first-rounders and Detroit’s second rounder (currently slated to be the 31st), the idea of having four draftees was going to break at some point. Judging by their maneuvering in this past draft, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them consolidate again or kick a pick down the line in another trade.
The last thorn in this deal for me, is the commitment to a certain style. If it were up to me, the Knicks would seek a more bio-diverse group. We already see the Knicks having a center platoon with Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel offering “48 minutes” of lively rim protection and lob threat. In the preseason Tom Thibodeau tried to establish Dennis Smith and Elfrid Payton as his lead guards. Payton stuck but Smith fell out of the boat before it even really shoved off shore. With Rose in tow, the Knicks now have “48 minutes” of driving, attacking point guard play. Rose is a better shooter than Payton but he’s still someone teams will elect to go under on, in an effort to contain his driving. If finding more driving PGs is part of the team’s goals, it could easily push Immanuel Quickley further down the rotation. Though he can clearly score the ball from deep, by getting to line, or with his floater, if he’s not getting further into the paint, he might not be giving the coaches what they’re after.
None of these things really speak to just how involved Derrick Rose will be in the team construct here. There are positives to be taken though. In Minnesota, under Thibodeau, Rose embraced the role of a backup point guard and that has continued in Detroit. Newly drafted Killian Hayes had nothing but kind words for how Rose was showing him the ropes and helping him along. That probably deepened when Hayes went down with what appeared at first to be a significant injury. As a former MVP, and someone who returned from multiple devastating injuries, his hard work will absolutely pay dividends to help push everyone in the locker room. Are the Knicks getting this guy?
Not at all! He’s long gone and he’s not coming back. There is a lived experience that will count for a team that, against all odds, has a legitimate shot to muscle their way into playoffs.
He may no longer be a starting caliber guard. He may not even be a bonafide upgrade on Elfrid Payton. He may have just got up and walked away from the Knicks once. Yet the Knicks got him for bupkis: a fringe NBA player and an unknown mid-late second round draft choice with a chance to be the same. Rose’s entrance may actually spell the end of Elfrid Payton, especially if there are other fringe playoff teams who seem to think he could help them.
At least one team in playoff contention has shown interest in Elfrid Payton. After dealing for Derrick Rose, the Knicks aren't done on the trade market just yet.— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) February 8, 2021
Rose knows what will be expected of him and if the Knicks continue their trend of exceeding expectations, Derrick may follow suit as New York starts to get reps on meaningful games. And that is critical to the development of all the young players on this roster.