The Kirk Hinrich "Great" Debate

As promised, I have re-evaluated Captain Kirk's grade from my report card. The new grade is still going to be a point of contention, but I don't expect for anyone to agree with me. Instead, I think this will be a decent starting point for a discussion on El Capitan, and I really want to see what others have to say on the topic.

First, I should probably clarify how I graded in Part 1 and Part 2 of my report cards. Bitterly, that's how. But the grades are harsh for one key reason: this team is underperforming. I could give Rose an A, BG a B+, and lower Timmy's grade to something much closer to his actual production, but the posts have done their part of opening discussions and I'll leave them as they are for that purpose.

The grades I gave were based on several factors. Comparison with other players in the league at similar positions is a given, as is performance based on minutes played. I also factored in expectations at the beginning of the season, performance vs. contract, and overall value to the team (which is why missing games hurts grades).

Kirk's parents (i.e. the BaB community) have convinced me to raise his grade to a C, just above that C- level. Now, on to my rationale.

So wait. I'm giving Kirk the same grade as Lindsey Hunter? Yes, I am. But that doesn't mean they are equals. That's ridiculous. Kirk has definitely played better than Hunter, but let's look at their roles. Hunter was an emergency pick-up, persuaded out of potential retirement to fill in while Hinrich was out. He was expected to back up Rose and be a mentor, which he has done well. But that's about all he's done, so he gets a C, a decent grade, but nothing special.

For Hinrich, let's go back to the draft, since that inevitably changed his role. With the lucky lotto ball, we got first dibs on drafting young talent, and we had established two key needs: a quality big man, and a point guard who could improve our poor offense. Sure, we can say Rose joining the team automatically means less time and production for Hinrich. But we only drafted Rose in the first place because Kirk was not doing his job well enough. The bigs were doing pretty lousy, but we went with a PG anyway.

So his role changed, and, professional as always, he accepted it without complaint. He played a few games off the bench and starting, putting in some inconsistent performances ranging from great (I think I remember a triple-double this season from him) to mediocre (6 points on 25% shooting with 4 assists, a TO, and a foul in a little over 23 minutes against below-average Indiana is a random example. 1 point on 0-7 shooting with 2 assists and 3 TO's in just shy of 23 minutes against lousy Minnesota is another). Then he got hurt. Being hurt hurts the team, too, whether it's his fault or not. The he came back, and the Bulls' D improved, in part because of his leadership and efforts. Nevertheless, his performances have still been inconsistent, ranging from good (like the game he started with Rose out injured) to forgettable.

What about that leadership, that counts, right? True, he is a leader and will continue to be one wherever he goes. He was pretty good at it a couple years back, but he's led the team to lukewarm play for 2 years straight. Even if the team makes the playoffs, let's not forget their record and the weak Eastern Conference. Can we blame all that on him? No, of course not. But, as a captain and veteran of several years with this franchise they really needed him to step up, what with the coaching changes and all. But he hasn't.

Let's gain some perspective on Kirk. I've taken a look at his role (minutes, playing-time situations, and positional aptitude) and compared it to some other guys. These are just offensive, but I'll get to defense later. I've included ages and current salaries as well. and Yahoo Sports are my sources

HINRICH - Age 28, $10M in '09

M - 26.2; FG ATT - 8.1; FG% - 43.3; 3PT% - 42.0; REB - 2.4; AST - 4.0; TO - 1.8; PF - 2.6; PPG - 9.8

K. DOOLING (NETS) - Turning 29, $3.3M in '09

M - 26.4; FG ATT - 7.6; FG% - 43.4; 3PT% - 43.5; REB - 2.0; AST - 3.4; TO - 1.3; PF - 1.7; PPG - 9.4

DJ AUGUSTIN (BOBCATS) - Age 21, $2.2M in '09

M - 26.0; FG ATT - 8.4; FG% - 43.6; 3PT% - 43.8; REB - 1.8; AST - 3.6; TO - 1.7; PF - 1.9; PPG - 11.6

CJ WATSON (WARRIORS) - Turning 25, $711K in '09

M - 23.2; FG ATT - 6.8; FG% - 45.4; 3PT% - 42.2; REB - 2.3; AST - 2.4; TO - 1.1; PF - 1.5; PPG - 8.6

RAMON SESSIONS (BUCKS) - Turning 23, $723K in '09

M - 27.0; FG ATT - 9.7; FG% - 44.4; 3PT% - 18.2 (on .5 att); REB - 3.3; AST - 5.3; TO- 1.8; PF - 2.0; PPG - 12.2

With the exception of Dooling, Hinrich is the oldest player in this group, and by far the highest paid. Of course that's nothing to hold against him personally, because he's just trying to get his money like everyone else. That still hurts the team though, especially when he's at peak age and is performing offensively with the likes of this group of guys (nothing against them, but they're not exactly big-shots). Others with comparable stats that I might have included are Eddie House, Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair, and Will Bynum (if you double his minutes and multiply the rest of his stats by about 1.5).

Of course, those are just statistics, not a complete comparison. But if Hinrich's D is the difference, then why is this team 17th in D overall? They weren't that great on D last year either, and Hinrich has to shoulder at least a part of that blame. The truth is, last year he wasn't showing the effort. This year, the effort is better than last year, but time off has caused Kirk to be a step slower on D.

Hinrich does have value as a good back-up, or a starter on a select number of teams (most of which are not very good). Portland and maybe Houston (depending on Brooks' progress) are the only 2 playoff teams I could see him starting for, which, in my eyes, makes him seem pretty average, relatively speaking. Could we get something valuable for him in a trade? Absolutely, but Pax needs to find a team that that has the cap space and has interesting pieces (like Portland). That contract makes things tricky, but by no means impossible. The biggest challenge will be that teams are going to be reluctant to make big moves this summer when the next summer is so much more appealing. That's just common sense, but it needs to be kept in mind when determining the likelihood of making a big splash in the summer market.

For all these reasons, I give Opie a C. There's my take, now let's hear yours. Poke holes in my logic, share your own, and reveal your plans for getting more wins.


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