Derrick Rose's return is finally in sight.
Yet, before he makes his highly anticipated regular-season debut in late October (against the Miami Heat), there are a handful of items to cross off his training-camp checklist.
These matters are not only imperative for his 2013-14 season, but also for the Chicago Bulls if they are to fulfill their NBA title aspirations. If Rose is healthy and is able to add layers to his game, then the Bulls are poised for a championship run.
There are four distinct areas he must target during training camp. If he can successfully address these elements in the coming weeks, then Rose is situated to have the best season of his career, even better than the 2010-11 campaign that landed him the MVP award.
The Obvious: Health
Since Rose hasn't played since April 2012, it is essential that his training camp be free of injuries. Any setbacks involving his surgically repaired ACL would be devastating.
The primary objective for Rose in the next month or so is to regain confidence and timing. He must overcome mental barriers, and he also needs to reestablish on-court chemistry with his teammates.
These should be the primary goals during practices and in their preseason outings.
If Rose is on the hardwood, we know what he can do. Since he's coming off such a serious injury, a healthy training camp is the featured task on D-Rose's checklist. Every move he makes will be heavily monitored.
Confidence in His Jumper
Rose is known for his elusive penetrations that often result in acrobatic finishes. They're unquestionably entertaining, but they also put him in vulnerable positions for injury and at times lead to questionable shot selection.
At this stage of Rose's career, especially since he's returning from an ACL tear, it's pivotal that he improves—and learns to trust—his jumper. Rose is a career 31.0-percent shooter from beyond the arc (per Basketball-Reference), which isn't a number that will garner much respect from opponents.
He also isn't that effective of a shooter from just inside the three-point line. The following shot chart from 2011-12 magnifies his shooting inefficiency.
Further, examine these shooting splits during his last two campaigns. Note his struggles from 16-24 feet.
Believe it or not, Rajon Rondo—a notoriously subpar outside shooter—has actually compiled better percentages from 16-24 feet.
It's not that Rose is an atrocious shooter, but there is plenty of room for growth. Perhaps he should even first establish faith in his mid-range jumper before relying on his long-range shooting.
Rose's athleticism off the dribble is what makes him remarkable, so he should by no means abandon this. He should just make it a point to develop confidence in his perimeter shot, because this will make him all the more lethal, and it will help enhance his career longevity.
He should make this a focal point throughout training camp.
More Frequent Use of the Jump Stop
Rose's leaping ability and creativity at the rim are a couple of his major assets. However, he sometimes relies too much on his athletic gifts. This can get him into trouble, resulting in difficult shot attempts in traffic.
He has grown skilled at avoiding contact in the air, but in doing so, Rose forfeits opportunities to get to the charity stripe. Or, sometimes his focus on the rim is so single-minded that he overlooks chances to dish to an open teammate.
Here is an example from a Bulls versus Indiana Pacers playoff game in 2011.
If Rose used a jump stop here, he would've almost surely gotten a defender up in the air. Such a move would have set up a chance to draw a foul. Instead, he continued on, and this attack to the basket culminated in an ill-advised shot that Paul George swatted away.
There are times when Rose borders on being out of control as he weaves his way to the bucket. He often launches highly contested floaters, in which the aforementioned jump stop would've likely led to a couple free-throw attempts.
For the record, Rose has exhibited the jump stop in the past, so it is not foreign to him. The following video reveals one of these efforts, which landed him a trip to the free-throw line.
Rose has this capability in his arsenal, but he must display it more frequently. It will not only make him a more productive player, but it will also facilitate more chances for his teammates.
The bottom line is that if Rose is more under control and patient during his drives, he should find himself notching more free throws and netting more assists.
Utilizing the jump stop should make him even more dynamic.
Chemistry with Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy
When Rose last played in 2012, Richard Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver accompanied him in the backcourt.
Rose must now mesh with some new faces.
Rose and Jimmy Butler have a scary potential together. Butler did not log much playing time as a rookie in 2011-12 (when Rose was last playing), so this will really be the first time they have a chance to create a chemistry with one another.
Butler's lockdown defensive talents and emerging offensive repertoire make him an ideal weapon alongside Rose. It shouldn't take long for these two to thrive alongside each other. Expect some signs of what they can accomplish as soon as the preseason begins.
Veteran Mike Dunleavy provides Rose with a deadly threat from long distance (42.8 percent in 2012-13). He will spread the floor for the Chicago point guard and often find himself open from long range.
Dunleavy should become Chicago's X-factor, a player who can alter any game if he gets hot.
Rose has familiarity with Chicago's other core figures, but he must learn the nuances of Butler and Dunleavy quickly. These two wings are integral pieces to Chicago's championship puzzle.
Rose is undoubtedly an MVP-caliber player when he's in uniform. The biggest objective of training camp is making sure that there are no lingering health concerns.
From there, his focus should be on building faith in his jumper, implementing a steady jump stop and generating chemistry with his new running mates.
If Rose is healthy as ever and cultivates these dimensions of his game, then he could be on his way to his second MVP award and a potential run at the 2014 NBA Finals.