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Derrick Rose, Pistons

How Derrick Rose is making a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year

Fans of the Detroit Pistons finally had something to be excited about this past Monday, as with the game tied at 103 in the closing seconds against New Orleans Pelicans, point guard Derrick Rose put one of the league’s best defenders on skates before nailing a mid-range jumper to secure the win for the Pistons.

Following the win, Johnny Kane of Fox Sports Detroit interviewed Rose, where he gave a memorable NSFW soundbite that is quite possibly the most notable thing to happen in Detroit sports in months.

After being named MVP 10 years ago, then undergoing more than a few knee surgeries, most NBA pundits saw Rose’s career as more than over. Yet here he is, proving the doubters wrong and making clutch shots for the Pistons.

The Pistons hit their groove as of late because of Rose, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News pointed out, ever since Rose had a couple late turnovers in a loss on Nov. 27 to the Charlotte Hornets, the Pistons have won four of their last six games.

After missing the first five games of the season to nurse a hamstring injury, Rose has seen his minutes per game total inch up to 24 minutes per contest. He’s averaged 15.7 points and 6.7 assists in the last six games while being the Pistons go-to guy in the clutch.

At 31, Rose knows who he is at this point in his career, instead of forcing himself to be the jump shooter he has never been, he’s driving to the rim more than ever before and reaping the benefits.

“I’m not a jump shooter — I’m just a scorer. Whatever you give me, I’ll take it. I knew that having a jump shot prolongs your career. The older you get, you adapt to the game and that’s all I’m trying to do now,” he said to Beard. “If the game goes back to all lay-ups and midrange, I want to be able to do what Kobe (Bryant) did. He’s my example and the guy I look to and make sure I don’t change my game all the way.

Rose is getting to the paint with a new youthful energy, driving to the rim 15.8 times per game–which ranks second among bench players with only Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets ahead of him–and shooting 54.3% on those attacks. Both elite-level marks and reminiscent of the marks from his 2010-11 MVP season, before all the ACL tears.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Rose doesn’t even crack the top six in current odds for Sixth Man of the Year. Clippers guard Lou Williams leads in that category, with his running mate in Montrez Harrell following close behind.

Making a statistical comparison between Rose and Williams brings up some interesting talking points. While per-36 minutes is a flawed stat cause it skews to benefit players with a smaller sample size, Rose is topping Williams in per-36 pints per (24.3 vs 23.1), field goal percentage (48.8 percent vs 41.2 percent) and assists per game (8.8 vs 7.2).

Lou Williams rightfully deserves to be the front-runner in the Sixth Man of the Year race, as the reigning award winner is the third best player on a Clippers team that is a favorite to make it out of a stacked Western Conference and win an NBA championship.

Nevertheless, if Rose keeps producing at the clip that he is at while staying healthy (which is sadly never a guarantee at this point in Rose’s career), he deserves to at least get some third-place votes in the category. And if he keeps hitting game-winners and leads the Pistons to a prominent spot in the playoffs, the award is his to lose.