(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose is joining a Minnesota Timberwolves team that is trying to make the playoffs. His addition, though, might return the team to the lottery. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Here are some fun facts about the NBA playoffs.
First, NBA players are paid for the regular season. When we say Jimmy Butler is paid $19.3 million for the 2017-18 season, we should remember that that money is collected before the playoffs start. Players do receive bonuses for the playoffs, but those bonuses are not much compared with the regular-season pay that a player like Butler receives. That means players like Butler are essentially playing for free in the postseason.
In addition, every team except one finishes the playoffs with a loss. So of the 16 teams in the field, 15 walk away unhappy. Yes, players don't get paid much, and they are almost guaranteed to be sad!
Finally, playoff teams are not invited to the lottery party (unless they have traded for a lottery pick from one of the NBA's losers). Therefore, if you just love lottery parties (and really, who wouldn’t?), the playoffs can be a real buzzkill!
With those three facts in mind, let's talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves' signing of Derrick Rose today.
The Timberwolves are in the midst of their best season since 2003-04. After missing the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons, they are 10 games over 0.500 and are in line for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. And now they have added the 2011 most valuable player.
So brighter days are ahead for Minnesota fans. Right?
Well, probably not. Once upon a time, Rose was a good NBA player. But since missing the entire 2012-13 season, he has never been the same. Relative to his pre-injury years, Rose is now less efficient as a scorer, less likely to get assists and steals (per minute played) and more likely to commit turnovers. And when we turn to his production of wins, we see a player who, pre-injury, produced more than 25 wins and, post-injury (i.e., from 2013-14 to the present), has produced -3.5 wins (yes, his production is below zero).
Some might hope that reuniting Rose with Coach Tom Thibodeau will make a difference. After all, Rose did win his MVP Award under Thibodeau. Unfortunately, though, Thibodeau was also his head coach in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and Rose was very unproductive in those seasons. He continued to be unproductive with the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Therefore, it doesn't seem likely that coaching is the problem with Rose. What does seem clear is that Rose has never recovered completely from his past injuries. That means that, regardless of his coach, it is unlikely Rose will really help the Timberwolves win in 2017-18.
Now, if the Timberwolves are trying to get to the NBA lottery for the 14th consecutive season, all of this is good news. There are might be some huge positives if that is the team's goal! But if the playoffs remain the dream, this team has a big problem.
Heading into Thursday's games, the Timberwolves are only 2.5 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, the teams in the 9th and 10th spots in the Western Conference. Here is something for the Timberwolves and their fans to consider: The Jazz traded for Rose about a month ago. At the time, the Jazz were two games below 0.500 and not really seen as contenders for a playoff spot. Since that trade, the Jazz have won nine of 11 games, all without Rose, whom they cut soon after he was acquired.
Of course, cutting Rose did not cause the Jazz to win. But it is clear the Jazz did not think keeping him would help, and the evidence confirms that line of thinking.
The Timberwolves have decided that adding Rose might help them fend off the Jazz. Unfortunately, that seems improbable. Sure, it is possible Rose could return to what he was before 2012. But given all we have seen from him in all the places he has played, it seems like the 2011 MVP is not likely to play like an MVP ever again.
The addition of Rose just adds to the bad news for fans of Minnesota. Recently, the Timberwolves learned that Butler would miss several weeks with an injury. After years of adding lottery pick after lottery pick and only finding themselves back in the lottery, the Timberwolves had finally found a productive NBA veteran capable of helping them reach the playoffs. The loss of Butler, though, coupled with the addition of Rose, puts that playoff dream in jeopardy.
Again, though, it does keep the lottery dream alive! Maybe that's not such a bad idea. After all, who doesn't love a lottery party?