It seems since the day Kirk was traded away that it was only a matter of time before the organization brought him back. Mark Deeks of shamsports predicted that Kirk would sign with the Bulls six months prior to it happening and was hardly alone in that assumption. I wonder to myself whether the signing was really fated or whether the Rose injury forced the Bulls hand.
The Bulls needed a combo guard
With Rose potentially missing a good chunk of the season, Chicago's needs changed significantly. Rather than looking for the best upgrade they could get at SG, the Bulls now needed someone to fill in at PG for significant minutes. Guys like Courtney Lee, Brandon Rush, or O.J. Mayo would have made great SG additions but couldn't play the one.
The Bulls, of course, could have opted to keep C.J. Watson as PG and bring in a pure SG [a plan I was in favor of], but the salary structure the team wanted to maintain prohibited this as well as the coaching staff losing faith in Watson due to his poor play down the stretch [and the fact that Watson was never the best at running a team even when playing well].
Furthermore, while Watson has a scorers mentality and is a quality outside shooter, he never seemed to play well off the ball when Rose was in the game making him a somewhat poor fit as a combo guard.
Not many cheap PGs out there
If we cross C.J. Watson off the list, the next tier of PGs in the Bulls price signed three year deals. Jason Kidd went for three years nine million to the Knicks while Andre Miller went for three years seven million guaranteed [9.5 total] with the Nuggets. While I think the 2014 plan is a bunch of crap, the Bulls were still likely looking at keeping cap room open in that year to have the flexibility to reboot the roster.
Miller would obviously been open to the Bulls offer of 2/8 instead of 3/7 while Jason Kidd may have gone either way given his age it was thought he might retire this year, so whether he can really hold up for three more years and earn a contract in that third year is up for debate. Kidd may be best served maximizing his dollars.
Either way, I'll probably take Kirk Hinrich over both Miller and Kidd, and there weren't any other PGs who signed for less or similar amounts that have me excited.
Can Kirk come back?
Here's a look at Kirk's stats over the past six seasons. While it's not a straight curve downward, overall his productivity is on fairly consistent downward trend.
It's worth noting that in 2010/11 season that he played much better with Washington than with Atlanta (PER of 13 with the Wizards and 9.8 with the Hawks). It's also worth noting he dealt with considerable injuries with Atlanta, and his low performance with that team could simply be a result of bad fit.
After all, while a PER of 13 with the Wizards in 2010/11 is nothing to write home about, it comes closer to his trend with Chicago where he was 13.1, 13.9, and 11.6 in his final three seasons. The biggest concern here going forward might be the PER of 11.6 in his final year with the Bulls where Derrick Rose clearly became the man. This might be the mark we can best use to guess what Hinrich will do once Rose returns.
So what would have been?
We'll never really know what would have happened had Rose not torn his ACL, I think the Bulls may have been hoisting an NBA championship trophy or would have stood a good chance of losing to OKC in the finals. If Rose is healthy and Bosh was still hurt, I really like the Bulls odds of having beaten Miami in the ECF. [Yes the "what if our guys were healthy and theirs weren't" game is an exercise in stupidity].
However, in terms of this off-season, I wonder if we'd be looking more seriously at Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo if our team needs weren't significantly changed by the torn ACL. The Bulls lack of confidence in Watson down the stretch forced their hand to find an upgrade at PG, and while I'm not sure I buy Kirk Hinrich as an upgrade, they certainly weren't getting anyone better.
Once that decision was made, there simply was no money left in their budget to do anything else, and I have to think with a healthy Rose the Bulls would have targeted SG as a position of need much more so than PG.