Thibodeau Player Development: Derrick Rose
When Tom Thibodeau took over the Chicago Bulls in 2010, he inherited a budding superstar in Derrick Rose, who made the All-Star team in his second season and averaged 20.8 points and six assists a night on an efficient 48.9% from the field.
The very next season, when Thibodeau began his coaching career in Chicago, Rose became one of the best players in the league and took home the MVP award at the age of 22, making him the youngest player ever to win the award.
While many may argue that Rose’s ascendance to MVP status was inevitable, it is ignorant to say that Thibodeau did not play a role in the leap Rose made in his third year.
Under Tom Thibodeau’s stewardship, Rose became a much-improved defender, contributing to his MVP candidacy. In his first two seasons in the league, Rose would not hustle on every play and was lazy when getting around screens.
Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme, which relies heavily on playing help defense and “icing” the pick and roll, played to Rose’s strengths as an athlete. He bought into Thibodeau’s defense and used his quickness to stay in front of his defender.
During Rose’s first two seasons in the league, his defensive rating was 106.1, and his defensive box plus/minus was -1.5 and -0.9, respectively. In his first two seasons under Thibodeau, his defensive rating was 99.8, and his defensive box plus/minus turned positive at 0.5 and 0.3, respectively.
It is difficult to measure a player’s defense, and these stats may not tell the whole story, but they are worth taking a look at. Rose’s significant jump in defensive efficiency can be somewhat attributed to the emergence of the Bulls’ team defense, but it cannot be denied that Rose improved as a defender under Thibodeau and his intricate defensive schemes.
Rose’s effort level on defense significantly increased, and his fit in Thibodeau’s defense was seamless. Rose has not played much defense in his career, but under Thibodeau, the effort was there, and the Bulls were always one of the league’s best defenses, having no weak spot.
The two developed a tight-knit bond and were very close. Thibodeau’s ability to bond with Rose and believe in him contributed to Rose’s willingness to buy into Thibodeau’s coaching philosophy.
Take it from Rose himself, who elaborated on their bigger-than-basketball relationship in response to The Detroit News:
"I figured out that Thibs loved me unconditionally. He’s the first coach up here that I felt like loved me unconditionally and it wasn’t about what I did for him"
Rose’s current agent, BJ Armstrong, spoke on how Rose and Thibodeau were a match in an interview with the New York Post:
"‘I’ve seen those two sit there and talk basketball hours on end. Coach Thibodeau loves basketball. There’s no doubt about it. When you meet Derrick, he loves the game. When you put those two together, you just have this chemistry and mutual respect for their passion for basketball.’ ‘Derrick would play basketball all day if he could,’ Armstrong added. ‘Coach Thibodeau will watch film and coach the game all day if he could. It’s the most important thing in their lives.’"
Tom Thibodeau was also adamant about Derrick Rose taking charge of the offense and being the center of everything the team did on that side of the ball. Rose’s usage percentage jumped from 27.2% to 32.2% in his MVP season.
Rose has had five seasons where his usage percentage was above 30%, and four of them came under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Before his ACL tear in the 2012 NBA playoffs, Rose became an elite playmaker, much to the credit of Chicago’s staff and front office for recognizing Rose’s ability to lead the offense as a primary ball-handler. His assists jumped from six a night to 7.7 and 7.9 in the two seasons that followed under Thibodeau.
He also became a more prolific and diverse scorer, improving his mid-range shot and pull up jumper. His points per game, unsurprisingly, improved from 20.8 per night to 25 and 21.8 in the next two seasons.
Rose’s field goal percentage dropped under Thibodeau, but he took on a more significant role in the Bulls’ offense. NBA offenses have changed, and Thibodeau does not have a player similar to Rose on the Knicks, but his ability to relate to Rose is encouraging.
Rose bought into Thibs’ system and instantly became one of the best players in the league. The two are very close and remain close to this day. Thibodeau deserves blame for keeping Rose in late during game one of the 2012 eastern conference playoffs, which led to Rose tearing his ACL. However, it was a freak injury, and Rose was 24th in minutes per game that season, going against the stigma that Thibs ran Rose into the ground.