Why I Cut Derrick Rose: Lessons In Decision Making

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Although the following is a discussion of fantasy basketball strategy, it offers valuable insight into the human decision making process.

It’s an extremely interesting and useful read for anyone who interacts with people on a regular basis.

I Cut Derrick Rose from my NBA Fantasy team last Monday.

The decision sparked a firestorm of criticism on the league message board.

Here’s why I did it:

Some background:

Take a look at the matchup between Manager #2 and I.

I’m winning the percentage categories easily.

As I stated before, I already have SEVERAL players who have missed games this week:

Reggie Williams (elevated to the starting lineup after Maggette’s Injury)

Jarrett Jack

Derrick Rose

  1. Jack and Reggie Williams are still out.

(note that these players were either injured after I was out of “adds” or were game-time decisions, so I could not drop them like I did with Derrick Rose)

I’m LOSING several of the cumulative categories, the categories most affected by the amount of players one has playing.

We have been one of the highest FG and FT percentage shooting teams all year.

What does all of the above mean?

No matter how inefficient a shooter my free agent adds were, they would almost certainly be more useful to my team than wasting a spot on an injured Derrick Rose (who was no lock to play at all this week).

Again, cumulative stats were important this week, not efficiency. Any player, no matter how inefficient, would have been a better bet for my team than relying on Rose.

But for the absence of Rose, Jack, and Reggie Williams, we take out Manager #2. You can see by the final stats, we only lost by a few steals, despite a significant disadvantage in ‘games played’.

(I am aware that turnovers and the percentages might have been altered with the presence of my injured players.)

More games played = more stats.

(reader note: Manager #3 traded Russell Westbrook for Eric Gordon earlier in the season. During the time when Eric Gordon’s injury was widely projected to only require a few weeks absence, Manager #3 offered the Westbrook-for-Gordon trade to another manager.

The other manager accepted the offer.

To maintain fairness, the commissioner must give all other league participants a chance to rule on any trade in which he is a participant. The voting managers rule that it’s a fair trade, telling the commissioner he can “ratify” it.

The day after the trade is accepted, Manager #3 gets cold feet and decides he doesn’t want to do the trade anymore. The league consensus is that Manager #3 is not allowed to renege on trades–it would be unfair to every other manager who is not allowed to rescind a trade offer after it’s accepted.

Manager #3 has complained about this trade ruling the entire season, despite the fact that he could have simply not offered the trade to the other manager if he wasn’t ready to do it.

Keep reading this post and you’ll see why this particular reader note is relevant to this discussion.)

you mad the worst move in fantasy basektball history” – Manager #3 / Commissioner

Manager #3,of all people, should’ve have learned the dangers of relying on injury info in the media, but I’m not surprised he hasn’t.

When you don’t fully understand the game you are playing, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Ignoring Manager #3’s flair for hyperbole and incoherent sentences, I can think of several, clearly idiotic moves that blows this “Rose” move out of the water:

1) (redacted)

2) Holding onto Eric Gordon for several weeks AFTER it was announced that he would be out for several months.

It’s unfortunate that no one else seems to understand this, but it’s not unexpected. A lot of fantasy managers are entranced by big-name players who are actually performing like waiver wire players. How else does one explain the ridiculously-high percentage ownership of players like the 2012 version of Lamar Odom?

People focus too much on the name/pedigree of the player. Focus on game statistics, not name recognition. Try to take the emotion out of the decision.

he is coming back on sunday Captain. Just read the tribune and KC Johnson is pretty reliable source…..I actually knew he was going to come back this week and Im very surprised you dropped for (redacted) splitter. Rose actually said hell come back this week or early next week.” – Manager #2

Let’s revisit the Eric Gordon Fiasco:

Remember all the reports that Eric Gordon would only miss a month or so of action? Remember how everyone KNEW that Eric Gordon would adhere to that rehab timetable?

He ended up coming back several months later than expected.

The “Eric Gordon” situation leads us to one of the following conclusions:

1) Eric Gordon and the team medical staff initially misdiagnosed his knee injury (i.e. medical incompetence).

2) The Hornets and Eric Gordon knew the true extent of the damage, but chose to float inaccurate medical info to the media and public at large.

3) Some rogue affiliate of the organization decided to release an update on Eric Gordon without consulting the team doctors, the Hornets Organization, or Eric Gordon.

One of these three choices is much more likely than the other two. Hopefully, you can guess which one.

Last week, I had all but decided to drop Derrick Rose with one of my four (4) allotted add/drops for this week. The only thing that would have stopped me was news that he was GUARANTEED to play in the Bulls games early in the week. I can’t afford to make decisions on ‘likely’ or other amorphous claims of health, especially when a professional sports team has incentive to be less than truthful on reports.

I am aware that independent journalists can publicize information. No need for anyone to raise this point again. Unless they are part of the actual organization, journalists can only get their information when the team allows them access or some team-affiliated person decides to leak some info.

This further reinforces my point that you cannot fully rely on what you hear from media reports, especially when teams have incentive (e.g. contract clauses, better draft position, scouting report trickery) to float self-serving information to the public. Unless it comes from the player’s doctor himself, I don’t take what teams and players say as gospel.

Anyone who does is flirting with disaster.

Many of you also fail to note the time and date that I dropped Rose.

I dropped him on Monday. News that he was returning did not hit until TUESDAY, the day AFTER I dropped him. Up until Tuesday, there was no timetable on his return. In fact, there was word that the Bulls were considering sitting him until the very end of the regular season.

To say that I dropped him after news of his impending return is FALSE.

I cut him when there was still no word on his return.

Here’s my earlier statement on groin injuries in sports:

the groin is one of the injuries that you just can’t rush. You can endure an ankle sprain by strapping on a brace. Ditto for a knee issue (although it’s significantly more dangerous).

If you don’t have a healthy groin, you can’t play effectively—-at all. That is why I made the (painful) decision to drop Rose. The Bulls are in no danger of missing the postseason and are a near lock for a top-two seed. The Bulls Front Office and Coaching Staff aren’t fools—they will err on the side of caution with Rose.” – Kene

Even if I had heard reports that he was ‘likely’ to return this week, I probably still drop him. “Likely” isn’t concrete; it’s not a guarantee.

I actually knew he was going to come back this week and Im very surprised you dropped for (redacted) splitter. Rose actually said hell come back this week or early next week. ” – Manager #2

The only way to know for certain that a player will return to action before he actually steps onto the court is if you have a crystal ball.

I wasn’t going to waste days praying he would return, especially when, at most, he would have played two games this week. Factoring in the uncertainty of Rose’s injury, the weakened state of my team, my current opponent, and the setup of this league, my best chance of winning was dropping Rose.

Here’s a lesson on decision making:

You judge the quality of a decision based on the information you had at the time, not on the final result. You look at the statistics, analysis, and best-guesses you have and make a choice that gives you the best chance of reaching your goal.

If any of you play Poker—-or any game of chance with some element of skill—this concept should be familiar.

If you are the kind of person that blames the dealer and curses the cards when you don’t hit that flush you were chasing, you probably aren’t a good player.

Good players make the statistically ‘correct’ decision and live with the result. Just because you lose a hand doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision. Conversely, winning a hand doesn’t mean you made the right decision.

(If you understand my analogy, you should understand my decision on Rose. Connect the dots, people.)

Rose played a grand total of one game, albeit a very good one. The potential and actual production I got from his roster spot surpassed what he produced in this one game.

Heck, I’ll even save some of you guys the time of writing a rebuttal to this post.

The most common criticism (both implied and explicitly stated) of my move has been this…

You can’t drop Rose. He is a star. You need his production to win in the later rounds of the playoffs.” – Every manager in this league who criticized me, and probably thousands more out there in fantasy land

Of course I wanted Rose on my team.

I would also like to eat pizza, sugar cookies, and ice cream every day without worrying about getting fat and becoming Diabetic, but it isn’t going to happen.

We have to deal with reality. Rose was hurt and his return date/condition was UNCERTAIN. You already saw he missed Thursday’s game, despite reports that he was ‘likely’ to play then.

The irony of this entire “Derrick Rose” discussion on ‘smart’ moves is that I’m being killed for a move that actually improved my chances of beating Manager #2 and winning the fantasy title down the road.

If I could do it all over again, would I drop Rose given the knowledge I had at the time?


I would drop Rose again if given the choice.

Anyone who wouldn’t do the same given my circumstances is a fool.

That, or they don’t care about advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

I don’t see how anyone can refute the argument laid out in this post. I don’t know how you can opt to hold onto Rose if you were in the same exact situation.

What do I mean by ‘exact’?

You have the same exact players, same exact injury situation, same exact opponent as I did when I made the decision.

The concept of ‘like’ comparisons seems to fly over the heads of some of my detractors in this league.  In other words, members of this league are fond of comparing “apples” to “oranges” instead of “apples” to “apples”.

If you want to rebut this post with any legitimacy, start by comparing “apples” to “apples”. Before you say “I would never do this” or “always do that”, make sure your decision is within the EXACT context in which the subject of your criticism made his.

What YOU would have done if Derrick Rose was on your team is a nice talking point, but it’s irrelevant in the process of valid comparison.

If you want to make a legitimate critique of what I did wrong, then you need to say exactly what you would have done differently given the players, health issues, and opponent that I had.

Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum; you must consider circumstance and context.

Had I kept Rose (which was, paradoxically, both the most risky and cowardly move I could have made), I would been even further away from beating Manager #2.

How can keeping Rose be both “risky” and “cowardly”?

The easy and, judging by the shock at my drop of Rose, most common move by nearly everyone in fantasy land would have been to hold onto Rose and pray he came back in time to help me.

Then, if I lost valuable production from his roster spot by not making the difficult, but (in all likelihood) correct decision, I could cry and whine about being eliminated from the Playoffs because of Rose’s injury.

Just like Manager #3 did here:

(reader note: the following quote was directed at me. I made the playoffs. Manager #3 finished a game behind me, missing the playoffs. Manager #4 finished in dead last in the league, rarely setting his lineup.)

“the only reason you’re in the playoffs is because i had too many injuries and a tough schedule at the end. you on the other hand played Manager #4 and i believe you played him twice. even with my injures, and tough schedule towards the end, and all that bad luck… ” – Manager #3/Commissioner

I chose the emotionally-painful road. I am proactive and don’t mind being criticized.

If there is a move I can make that will enhance my chances of winning and advancing towards the title, I’m going to make it—–no matter how unpopular.

I’m not married to names; I focus on stats and probability.

THAT is how you run a fantasy team.

If you hold onto players in anticipation of what they might produce TOMORROW, your team may not make it to tomorrow…..

I look forward to your responses.



The final result of my matchup against “Manager #2” was a “5-6” loss.

Manager #3 won these categories: Points, Three-Pointers Made, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, Field Goals Made.

I Won: Free Throws Made, Field Goal Percentage, Free Throw Percentage, Blocks, and Turnovers.

I lost the steals category by only “3”.

I welcome any responses to this defense. Dropping an MVP in any fantasy competition is a topic worth discussing.

[UPDATE April 17th, 2012: The week of April 8, Derrick Rose went right back to being day-to-day. He has missed several games since playing that April 8th game.]

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