Much of the season is on Kirk's shoulders, is he up to the task?

The Chicago Bulls went well out of their way to target Kirk Hinrich passing up several players that were better fits next to Derrick Rose at shooting guard. The reason? It goes beyond familiarity, they needed someone who could play PG while Rose was out.

If Kirk Hinrich were to get hurt or play poorly, the Bulls would rely on Nate Robinson or Marquis Teague to play point guard, both recipes for disaster. While many fans aren't jacked up about Kirk's return, the PG market was thin, and their only real other option was to keep C.J. Watson instead.

So what has happened with Kirk since leaving Chicago?

Kirk injured his shoulder in preseason with the Wizards which at the time didn't seem like such a big deal. He went on to play 72 regular season games in 2010/11 missing a few with calf/hamstring injuries as well as a couple due to the timing of his mid-season trade. All in all, in terms of games played it was a decent season.

For the Wizards, he was actually playing a bit better than he did for the Bulls the previous season with slight increases in his per minute scoring and passing rates and a slight dip in his turnover rate. His PER was up a point, and while he was hardly setting the world on fire, he was at least the same player he was for Chicago.

Things went downhill when he was traded to the Hawks though. With the Hawks additional scorers, Kirk spent most of his time standing around the perimeter waiting for someone to pass him the ball. While not a tremendous dribble penetrater, that portion of his game completely withered and died. His assisted shots saw an increase of 50% from the 39% to the 59% meaning he was less involved in controlling the ball and more involved in catch and shoots. Instead of a facilitator, he became a niche player.

Whether or not Kirk plays well enough to handle the ball significantly in an offense is up for debate. However, it's clear his efficiencies dip when he doesn't have the rhythm of handling the ball constantly and plays better with the ball than without it.

In the playoffs for Atlanta, he played well against Orlando shooting 50% from the field, 42.1% from the three point line and chipping in 10 points per game until a strained hamstring sidelined him forcing him to miss the series against Chicago where Jeff Teague emerged and took over Kirk's role as PG, never to relinquish it.

During the 2011 off season, Kirk was having shoulder pain, had a cyst in his shoulder and had shoulder surgery which sidelined him for the start of the 2011-12 season. When he returned on January 25th, he struggled something terrible, shooting under 40% for 17 of his first 20 games while hitting above that mark 19 of 28 games the rest of the way. Both his FG% and 3pt% raised a full 10% from the first stretch to the second stretch (35% to 45% and 27% to 38%).

He had a similar bump in terms of his passing numbers as well as his assist/to ratio went from a 1.67 to a 2.92 from the start of the season to the second half.

In short, while Kirk's aggregate numbers for the 2011/12 season look fairly bad, the majority of the horribleness can be traced back to recovering from shoulder surgery which is sure to throw off the stroke of any shooter. His shooting numbers after he regained a comfort level were actually above his career average while his passing numbers went from terrible to acceptable.

It's easy to dismiss Kirk because of a poor PER over the past couple of seasons with Atlanta, but he wasn't as good a fit for what they needed him to do in their offense and clearly struggled significantly with injuries hurting his overall numbers. His numbers as the season went on were still consistent with what he's done for Chicago, and he'll be put in a position to play his best while Rose is out.

Will he play well enough for the Bulls to hold the rope until Rose gets back? That's tough to say, but a more in depth look at the numbers makes the move look better than the quick glance. There's plenty of reason to suspect Hinrich can come in and play at a similar level to what he did when he was last with the Bulls as long as he's able to stay healthy.

Bear in mind, that's not anywhere near his peak as his last three seasons with Chicago weren't all that special. However, he can still be a quality player and is likely much better than a quick glance at his recent numbers would portray.

Filed under: Free Agency

Tags: chicago bulls, kirk hinrich, nba

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  • Most depressing blog title ever.

  • In reply to Dave:

    Whatever do you mean????

    "Much of the season is on Kirk's shoulders, is he up to the task?"

    "Kirk injured his shoulder in preseason with the Wizards"

    "Kirk was having shoulder pain, had a cyst in his shoulder and had shoulder surgery"

    You don't trust Kirk to shoulder the load???

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    May God have mercy on our souls.

  • dismissing his Atlanta stats as injury and scheme issues doesn't do justice to the fact that he is just as poor a scheme fit for the Bulls also. I wouldn't be surprised to see him shooting sub 40% while Rose is out which should pair nicely with a injured sub 40% shooting Loul Deng. This season has disaster written all over it. He has no chance of being good at the PG position unless they revamp the offense to one not dominated by the PG. Given that the other starting players aren't well suited to for that style not sure that even works that well.

    This is going to be Paxson basketball scrappy defense with very little scoring and grinding out wins on pure effort over talent. A style that will never win a championship but is usually solid during the regular season.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Asking Kirk to be the creator of the offense and his own shots is just stupid. A role better suited for a Jerryd Bayless, CJ Watson or Aaron Brooks type player. Alll whom signed for less than Kirk. Kirk was a total Paxson hire that guy loves to over rate and over pay his draft picks.

  • In reply to Chad:

    The problem is none of those guys could slide over to play SG effectively and Bayless/Watson cannot create shots for others effectively or run the offense effectively. I would have liked Brooks though even if he can't play SG. Ironic that his deal is what we thought Kirk's deal was before finding out it was bigger.

  • In reply to Chad:

    I didn't dismiss Kirk's stats. I noted that his stats were god awful after he was unable to play basketball for 4 months after shoulder surgery and that in particular his shooting stats [think the shoulder might be an issue there?] were bad. Then the three months after that his stats were actually pretty good and better than his career averages including his playoff stats which were very, very good.

  • This was funny...the coffee actually came out my nose hit my computer started a fire and burned down my kitchen...

  • I don't know...this is a tough one. I remember screaming at the TV the last year or so Kirk was with the team...I even refused to call him anything besides Klank Hin-Brick for his inability to hit wide open three. How-EV-a, part of me really think this could work. Kirk seems to be tailor made to fit with Thibs. Let's not forget that during Kirk's last year with us, he was being called "Kurt" and playing under Vincent Del Suck-o. Thibs seems to understand player's strengths and weaknesses and what to ask from them (see the difference in Luol Deng's game) and Kirk is the kind of player who would be into whatever basketball related thing Thibs asks of him without question. PER, P-E-SHMAR...that doesn't take enough, including having to watch John Wall chuck up shots against three defenders in an unstructured toilet of an offense, into account. Kirk also seems rejuvenated. He's back where his heart is. He's back with players and a coach he likes and can actually respect (save Robinson and Radmonovich). Kirk may even help out Boozer's offensive game and fit with Hamilton nicely. Who knows and who can really tell. Kirk would be an odd fit for most teams, but I see him fitting here better than anywhere else. Obviously, so does he....or he would be in Milwaukee. I am CAUTIOUSLY optimistic....49 wins and a deep play-off run!!!

  • Bulls fans are like captured tropical fish forced to live in a small confined world without much hope of freedom or excitement. Fantasy most of the time is really all we have. Pretending a bum like Kirk Hinrich will be a soild starter. Pretending Thibs incessant wailing and unsophisticated doltishness wont eventually lose guys respect for him. He's a defensive savant, and offensive solid fundamentals guy who rigidly sticks to solid principles, but he's not a head coach!

    Doug's initial reaction was the correct one: "Kirk Hinrich?? Lee, Mayo etc. available, and you got Kirk Hinrich?!"

    And honestly Doug admits he became a Bulls fan when they were lousy, lovable losers so to speak. That's fine, but Kirk also is a whiner, and can make some pretty boneheaad statements at times. Plus he launches his jumper often while still moving laterally which to me is maddening, and he has the sublimely irritating habit of fouling three point shooters. There's a reason so many people wretched convulsively and scoffed upon hearing of his ignominious return.

    Kirk Hinrich coming back to the Bulls was not just about needing a PG it was about Gar/Pax over valuing their guys/picks. Always have, always will. He is without doubt an oft injured past his prime player which makes him a perfect fit for the Bulls(Gar/Pax). I really have lost all respect for those two douchebags who without doubt should be fired.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Also true that he was playing SG and giving up 3"-4" to his matchup every night. That brought his shooting % down significantly for us.

  • Anybody who expects the bulls to be at anywhere near the level they were the last two seasons is starting off with the wrong expectations. .500 for next years team and Rose playing any kind of significant minutes/role at the end of the season should be considered a success.

    Also, while you could say there were better fits to start next to Rose, there weren't a good fits, just marginal guys. Rip (from 5 years ago) is still the prototype player to play next to Rose, somebody who excels playing off of the ball and playing defense. C. Lee was the best fit, but he doesn't play off of the ball as much as he just spots up. Kirk was brought in to backup Rose and play spot minutes at the two. So to say the season is on Kirk's shoulders is a bit of a stretch given what the injury situation is and what the expectations should be.

  • Reading all these comments I have to wonder, Doesn't any of this sound familiar? The last two years, so many people on this blog talked nonstop about how horrible the season was going to be. How the players were horrible and they were going to be lucky just to make the playoffs. Both years they had great success. Now it is the same thing all over again. Untill I see this team fail, untill I see Thibs fail, I'm going to trust that they will be ok. I'm not going to preach failure and call guys "bums" untill I see them play in the system. Maybe your're all right and the Bulls will suck, but until then I have no reason to not believe.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    The Bulls have failed the last 2seasons. They have been regular season champs and that is all. Thibs has done an exceptional jobs with the players that he's had that have offensive woes. Bulls need better players that know how to get the job done come playoff time.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    They failed last season's playoffs due to injury...not by needing better players.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    Everybody? I talked about how good the team could be the past two years. Now this season I advocate tanking the crap out of it, because we no longer have many of the players who allowed the team to be a contender.

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    Will confirm this fact. Hinrich is a good player who has not gone through the best seasons lately. Hopefully this will change this season

  • Well I certainly feel comforted that the season rests on the shoulders of a guard the wrong side of 30 who we're cautiously optimistic can return to form and play at the level of a 7th man on a good team.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Don't forget "Who fans referred to as either Captain Klank or Kirk Hinbrick towards the end of his last stint with the team".

    Somehow, I think that is telling.

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