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A few words on Kirk Hinrich

December 15, 2009 |  1:30 pm

With the Bulls currently sitting at 8-14, outside the top eight even in the extremely accommodating Eastern Conference, it's fair to say things in Chicago have come off the rails, putting Vinny Del Negro's job in question. Put simply, the Bulls can't score, ranking 28th in points per 100 trips (98), 29th in effective field goal percentage (44.6), 28th in three point percentage (29.5), and so on. While that might interest John Q. Lakers fan only in the very short term (through this evening, specifically), when it comes to personnel, the Bulls have one guy whose name pops up a lot when discussing potential upgrades for LA's backcourt- Kirk Hinrich.

If this report from Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus is any indication, those hoping to see the pride of Sioux City in purple and gold might want to proceed with caution:

"...Before Saturday's game, a reporter asked Vinny Del Negro about Kirk Hinrich's physical ailments. There were so many, that Del Negro drew a blank on the last couple. The thin Bulls need Hinrich's contributions off the bench desperately, as he is still the team's best perimeter defender. However, there is more plaguing Hinrich's game than injuries. He seemingly has lost his ability to hit the outside shot. A career 38 percent three-point shooter, Hinrich is just 13-of-46 (.283) this season. However, he hasn't been much better inside the arc, hitting 36 percent. Hinrich is 5-of-27 since returning last week after two weeks off with a wrist problem, among other things. Hinrich is averaging a career-low 7.9 points per game and has a career-worst .406 True Shooting Percentage. Largely because of Hinrich's absences and ineffective play, the Bulls' second unit has been getting drilled during the team's recent slump..."

Thinking out loud here, continuing below...

Hinrich is an intriguing player. At 28, he's hardly old, is a very solid defender on the perimeter, has good size particularly when playing at the point, and plays really hard. He's not much of a threat to penetrate into the lane and doesn't generate a ton of assists, but in LA's offense, those things aren't really an issue. If he bounces back, Hinrich could theoretically slide into a starting point guard role next season. That said, he's having an atrocious year, and even when factoring in all of the physical ailments that have plagued him this season has regressed, at least statistically, from his best year in '06-'07.

Nor is he cheap, earning almost $10 million this season, $9 mil the next, and $8.5 during the 2011-12 campaign. That's a lot of payroll to add for a guy who isn't, again looking at the numbers, a massive upgrade over what they have now in Derek Fisher and Co. Hinrich is an upgrade defensively over Fish and certainly is better than Jordan Farmar, but considering the Lakers would likely have to add players to the roster after making a hypothetical deal (say Adam Morrison, Farmar, and either Josh Powell or DJ Mbenga- tradeologists feel free to work something else, but try to be realistic. Would the Bulls take Morrison and Sasha Vujacic? I guess it's possible...), the financial costs could be far too high. Keep in mind LA's salary obligations for next season, already lofty without fielding a full roster, and an extension for Pau Gasol in the not-so-distant-future. 

Plus, that swap would rob the Lakers of their best floor-pushing guard, leaving them with almost nobody in the backcourt who can confidently handle the ball and push pace.

If Hinrich's current performance was less an aberration and more the start of a trend, the Lakers would be screwed. Personally, I don't like the risk. Fun to talk about, but strikes me as more "cure" than the disease- keep in mind it's all relative when talking about a very, very good team- warrants. Even if he returns to decent form, stays healthy and plays good D, is Hinrich going to be that much better than the player Lakers hope Shannon Brown can be, at least on the defensive side of the floor? Is Hinrich, particularly as measured in the millions of dollars in costs between the two, appreciably better right now? Even if Brown opts out after this season and re-signs in LA, it won't be nearly at the cost of Hinrich. That certainly matters.

I've said for a while that in the end, I think the Lakers are likely to end the season with a very similar roster to the one they have now. If Morrison can turn into some sort of Shannon Brown type deal, where he's flipped for a guy with low risk financially and a some upside, Mitch Kupchak could pull the trigger. But in terms of high priced, high profile deals? I don't see it. The Lakers don't need anything, and are better off working on the margins rather than doing something that could hinder their already bright long term future.

Fun stuff to kick around, though.

BK


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