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The Numbers Like the Derrick Rose Trade

Chicago will miss the irreplaceable local legend, and the Bulls’ move suggests Joakim Noah is on his way out as well. But the return, though unsexy, could work out.

Derrick Rose heads to the locker room after a home game against the Sacramento Kings.   Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

There’s no way in which it’s not sad. Derrick Rose, Englewood native and Simeon star turned MVP, literally has the Chicago skyline tattooed on his hand. An unforgiving city wanted him to become what he did, as Noah Isackson reported in 2008:

The neighborhood pulled together, too, to shield its prodigy. While random violence and stray bullets remained an ever-present threat, gang members who typically would have tried to recruit or hassle a boy Rose’s age left him alone. “If you’re an athlete, they tend to give you a free pass,” says Donald Whiteside, an Englewood native who starred at Northern Illinois and played in the NBA. “For anyone else, it can be pretty rough.” Rose says that his family benefited from the protective ring, too. “They looked out for my mother,” he says. “They only do that for certain people, and we were lucky.”

But the game is unforgiving too, and the Bulls just traded their local legend to the Knicks (Dutch for “expensive, oft-injured veterans") along with little-used Justin Holiday and a second-round pick. Adrian Wojnarowski, naturally, broke the news; shoutout to Blogabull for predicting the Knicks’ offer.

In exchange, the Bulls get no one to stir the imagination: Robin Lopez (giving the team a third well-coiffed center), the similarly oft-injured but much cheaper Jose Calderon, and young point guard Jerian Grant, nephew of Horace, whose coach floated the idea of demotion to the D-League back in February.

But when emotions fail you, you might as well look at the numbers. And there’s no better place to start than ESPN’s fun Trade Machine. I just got it in under the wire before ESPN updated the team rosters, and the swap projected a two-win gain for the Bulls, based on John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. And PER really doesn’t like Rose, who ranked 44th among point guards in 2015-16. By that metric, Calderon isn’t that much of a falloff at 56th.

And under the hood, Calderon seems to have some advantages: a much better assist to turnover ratio (3.43 vs. 1.78) and better effective field goal and true shooting percentages per NBA.com’s advanced stats.

The big get is Lopez—three years younger than Joakim Noah, slightly cheaper, and locked up through the 2018-2019 season at a comparable salary. PER likes him better than Noah but less than Gasol. Posting and Toasting’s Seth Rosenthal describes him this way: “Lopez isn’t a thrilling player to watch, and I can understand why his addition feels like settling, but I’m excited to have him around” and “a very good player on a very good contract.”

Jerian Grant? No one really knows. He was a highly-regarded prospect, but the Knicks’ vets literally asked to have their minutes cut for Grant and the team’s other young players to get more playing time. He might be bad; he might have been in a bad situation.

It’s possible that the trade could match the predictions: a decent replacement for the likely departing Noah at a similar price, a competent pure point guard, and a possibly more-than-competent one, for less money than two beloved but risky players. It might not be interesting, but it might work.

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