What is Derrick Rose’s future with the Knicks?

Thirteen months ago, the Knicks’ season was ended by the Atlanta Hawks in a tough first-round series where Derrick Rose looked like the Knicks’ best player. While Julius Randle was the unquestioned best and most important player for the Knicks during their resurgent 2020-21 season, Rose may have been the second-most important player that season. After starting the year with a Detroit Pistons team looking to get younger and rebuild, Rose was acquired for Dennis Smith Jr. and a second round pick. Reunited with his former coach, Tom Thibodeau, Rose quickly proved to be incredibly important. He was the only player outside of Julius Randle that could get his own shot and create for others. And his defense and improved outside shooting became a necessity. On a roster that lacked offensive talent, Rose’s scoring ability was undeniably valuable.

And because of his resurgent season, it was no surprise that there were a lot of expectations placed on the former MVP heading into 2021-22. Sure, the Knicks acquired Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to start in the backcourt, and fans expected Immanuel Quickley to take another step, but Rose was still going to be leaned on to be the consistent rock that he had been during the prior season. And while Rose’s minutes took a bit of a hit with the new roster, he was exactly that: a very solid, consistent player. But the problem was he wasn’t on the court much last season. After going through multiple procedures on his ankle, Rose ended up missing the last 56 games of the season.

So where does that leave Rose and his future? Rose still put up solid numbers of 12.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.0 RPG and 0.8 SPG on 44.5% from the field and 40.2% from three. But Rose will turn 34 later this year, and we are talking about an injury-prone guard that is coming off yet another injury-plagued season. With the roster as is, it is very possible that the front office looks to move Rose for another shooter or defender. While the front office and coach Thibodeau—much like the fans—loves Rose, the Knicks currently have a lot of guards. Incoming free agent Jalen Brunson is a point guard and the Knicks still have the aforementioned Fournier and Quickley to go along with RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride. Not all of those guys are point guards, but that’s a lot of players looking to compete for minutes. If the Knicks were in a “win now” mode with the roster to fit that mentality, then it would make sense to keep Rose over some of the other young guys but with the direction of the current team, it may be for the better to say goodbye to the fan favourite.

That being said, there is a solid chance that the roster changes significantly before training camp. The Knicks have been heavily linked to Donovan Mitchell lately, and there is a decent chance that the Knicks will have to part ways with Grimes and/or Quickley. If the Knicks were to lose them in a trade for Mitchell, they will surely need Rose to shore up the second unit. His experience and veteran leadership would be useful, and his ability to slot in as a starter would allow the Knicks to rest Mitchell or Brunson from time to time as well. A bench unit led by Rose, Isaiah Hartenstein and whatever pieces they may be able to get from Utah (like a Jarred Vanderbilt or Rudy Gay) could be both fun to watch and competitive.

But then a potential Mitchell trade also brings up the potential trade for Russell Westbrook. The Knicks have been rumored to be interested in trading for the Lakers’ point guard if they can land Mitchell. There is still no word on what that would look like but bringing in another guard may slot one of the newer guys (Brunson) to the bench and even if the Knicks ended up just waiving him, the deal could involve other pieces that may impact Rose’s future as well.

All this is to say, there really is no telling what Rose’s future holds. Between the fact that we saw Quickley really come into his own at the end of the season and the fact that Rose only managed to play in 26 games last season, he has become somewhat of an afterthought. And he is in a bit of a weird spot right now. He is too good and valuable to the team to just throw away for nothing, but he is also an aging injury-prone guard on a young roster full of promising guards. Ultimately, it will depend on if the Mitchell trade goes through and what pieces are left on the roster. And before we point to feelings and relationships as a reason the team would keep him, let’s not forget that the team parted ways with Taj Gibson — another favorite of the players, fans, coaches and the front office — not too long ago.

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