Kirk Hinrich plays defense. Kirk Hinrch runs the offense. Kirk Hinrich has the lowest PER on the team of any player who’s played more than 25 minutes of basketball. Nate Robinson is a selfish chucker playing hero ball. Nate Robinson has the highest PER on the team of anyone who’s played more than 3 minutes of basketball.
The coaching staff certainly had a predisposition of who should be starting before the season began, and Tom Thibodeau has shown in the past that he’s not likely to bench a struggling starter just because there’s a vastly better option on the bench (Keith Bogans, Rip Hamilton, and Carlos Boozer all say hi).
However, it’s time to start looking at this Kirk thing and thinking, this isn’t working out the way we’d hoped. I had been a long time supporter of bringing back C.J. Watson over Hinrich, especially given the fact that his contract was less, wouldn’t hard cap the team, and was only for one season.
I gradually bought into the koolaid around Kirk when noticing his numbers were significantly down due to injury last season and that he finished the season quite strong. The fact that he was a better leader and potentially better defender made me think that this might work out afterall.
Kirk started off preseason with some game changing plays, but by the end, his shooting numbers were abysmal and all the leadership in the world hasn’t allowed them to break anyone down off the dribble. He does do a nice job running the offense and has morphed into a game managing point guard.
Unfortunately, Kirk Hinrich also sports a 31.7% true shooting percentage. That’s about 150 points less than where you don’t deserve to be in the NBA anymore. It’s only three games, and I’m sure his scoring numbers will improve. However, he’s not exactly crushing Robinson in the other categories either.
His main advantage is probably in turnovers per minute where his 2.0 is quite respectable given the amount of ball handling he does relative to Nate’s 3.5. However, Kirk is largely standing on the perimeter passing the ball while Nate is driving into the late through bodies attempting to set up easy shots for himself and others.
Through three games, Nate Robinson is the only player on the team that looks like he can break down the opposing defense. He’s the only player who can create a shot for himself or others. Everyone else is reliant on ball movement, the offensive scheme, or simply taking a highly contested fadeaway jumper.
The Bulls need energy on the court, and Nate Robinson’s presently the guy supplying the most of it. I don’t expect Nate Robinson to continue rolling with a PER over 20. His 12 assist 7/9 shooting game was an aberration that inflated his numbers and won’t likely be repeated soon. Nor is it likely he continues to grab over seven rebounds per 36 minutes.
However, I do expect Nate Robinson to consistently find his way past his defender into the teeth of the defense. The Bulls lack that ability from any other player and unless someone else develops a dribble penetration game in the next few days, the Bulls will need to keep that ability on the court more.
Robinson won’t start, and frankly, who cares? The importance of starting is vastly overrated, and the instant the Bulls signed Hinrich any possibility of another player outside of Rose starting ended. They’ll stick with Kirk if he finishes the season shooting 30%.
However, Robinson’s role looks to grow, and he’ll start playing more and more important minutes.
Tom Thibodeau won’t change his starters, but he’s beyond comfortable changing his finishers, and Nate Robinson looks like he can win a consistent closer role where the better of Hinrich or Hamilton get to play with him rather than having to prove himself to play with one of them.