One Last Stab at the Duhon Effect: It's Not Just Kirk

[From the Diaries. Hopefully this turns out to be a kind of eulogy ;-) -Matt]

The Duhon Effect is something often discussed here at Blog-a-Bull, but it's worth discussing again. With it's end in sight, I thought I'd get in one last diary while it's still relevant.  I know the Kirk stuff is largely old news here, but I decided to include it because of how it relates to Thabo.

If you just look at Duhon the player. He's a starting caliber PG for a half dozen teams that play high usage wing players. He's one of the best defensive PGs in the entire league. He shoots 3s well enough to be an effective spot up shooter. And his turnovers are manageable. He'd be perfect for Cleveland, Atlanta, or the Lakers. However, watch enough Bulls games over the last couple of years and many people, myself included, get the impression that Duhon has a negative impact. While finding that negative impact in his own numbers is hard, I discovered this summer that his negative impact shows up in other players' stat sheets. He drags other people down, specifically Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha.

The biggest issue is Duhon's negative effect on Hinrich's play. In 05/06, Kirk's PER dropped 2.5 points from 18.1 to 15.6 when Kirk when playing with Duhon. In 06/07, Kirk's PER dropped 3.5 points from 19.9 to 16.4 when playing with Duhon. That's the difference between being tied for 5th best PER with Chauncey Billups among PGs and being tied for 14th best with Mo Williams. When Kirk played SG with Duhon on the floor his effective FG% dropped 7%, he had 2 less assists/40 min, and 1 less reb/40 min. So not only are the Bulls trading Ben Gordon for Chris Duhon offensively, but they're getting less offense from Kirk Hinrich. In contrast, Sefolosha didn't force Hinrich to SG and didn't have a negative effect on Hinrich. With Sefolosha, Hinrich had the same increase of 1 FGA, 1 FTA, and 0.5 steals/40 min, but didn't have the significant drop in FG%, rebounding, or assists so he averaged 2.5 more points/40 min with Thabo than with Duhon. Sefolosha was also able to match Duhon's production, without negative effects on Hinrich. As I've said before, there is no reason to play Duhon and Hinrich together this season. So far this season, Skiles has kept them apart so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The one player who suffered more than Kirk from playing with Duhon was Thabo Sefolosha. Thabo played 391 minutes with Duhon on the floor, nearly 1/2 his total minutes. During the year, I was frustrated whenever Skiles put them on the floor together. Playing two reluctant shooters at the guard position is a recipe for disaster, and Skiles failed to give Thabo the opportunity to succeed whenever he played them together. Today I noticed just how stark the negative impact on Thabo was when looking through the Bulls' Player Pairs data at When playing with Duhon, Thabo shot 33.6% and had 3.8 TO/40 min. Awful doesn't even begin to describe those numbers. But when Duhon wasn't on the court, Thabo had a very solid 50.3 FG% and 1.8 TO/40 min. Which is the real Thabo? Even before seeing these numbers, I've always believed in the latter successful Thabo. The one I saw knocking down 3s in the playoffs against Miami. I thought he was simply misused by Skiles last year. These numbers only confirm it for me. Thabo is a natural role player willing to sacrifice for his teammates, which is all the Bulls need him to be. But to be an effective role player, you have to play with really good players. What good would Bruce Bowen be on a bad team? His entire career before San Antonio answers that question. Thabo was drafted to play with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, not Chris Duhon, and that's how he should largely be judged.

Chris Duhon can be effective playing backup PG to Hinrich and playing with Ben Gordon, who suffers no ill effectives from playing with Duhon. He's a solid player on the wrong team, who unfortunately doesn't have enough trade value to bring anything Paxson wants in return. But, the idea of Sefolosha being able to kick Duhon out of the rotation looks a lot more promising. And the chance to finally see Kirk Hinrich's true value as a PG looks like a near guarantee for now. While the Duhon effect is less noticable elsewhere, Duhon nearly doubles Ben Wallace's turnovers. I was hoping for a Duhon trade this summer to put an end to the Duhon Effect, but that end may come with him still on the team.

Player Pair data for the Chicago Bulls and the other stats I used are available at

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