As you all know, I am an extreme fan of Chicago's current most polarizing basketball player. I'm not however here to try to justify why Hinrich is my favorite player, or why I think he is actually good. I am not here to make him out to be some savior or make anyone believe he can be anything better than a role player....
All i wish to accomplish is to have you believe that Hinrich can be a valuable role player. So below is my evaluation (scouting report if you will) on Hinrich.I think one of the big concepts with hinrich might be a strange case of Symmetry. Hinrich truly is a combo guard, and i say this because it seems at ever point of his skill set he is in constant tradeoff between what is ideal for a shooting guard and what is ideal for a point guard but this is also balanced out by the inverse; what is not ideal for a shooting guard and what is not ideal for a pg. This symmetry then becomes both hinrichs strength and his weakness, which is why situation matters so much more with kirk than most other players in the NBA.
Just to illustrate, lets look at Hinrich's height. Hinrich is 6'4, and depending on what guard position he is playing affects how effective his height can be. As a pg, 6'4 is considered slightly above average, but as a sg 6'4 is considered slightly below average. This is essentially how most of hinrichs skill sets play out as well.
Hinrich on Defense
On defense hinrich does all the "coaching" stuff well. He is always attentive and aware, doesnt take any positions off, has active feet and hands. He provides ample help defense without ever conceding too much room to his man. These things are exactly why many coach's constantly throw hinrich on some of the better offensive players, because they trust him to follow their directions perfectly. However, basketball in the NBA often goes further than the x's and o's.
Hinrich's biggest flaw comes from his symmetrical tradeoff between offense and defense. Playing with the 'baby bulls' hinrich was often forced to guard shooting guards of the other team because his co-pilot in the backcourt was usually either ben gordon or chris duhon. For this reason hinrich spent most of his tenure as a Bull bulking up and getting stronger so that he could physically keep up with the bigger shooting guards. This however had an inverse effect on hinrichs quickness. As his years went on it became more and more obvious that hinrich was increasingly failing at staying with the quicker pgs of the league.
It is due to these reasons why there is often so much debate on whether hinrich indeed is a versatile defender or not. "Pro-Hinrich" fans tend to focus on the things he does well WHILE playing defense, while "Anti-Hinrich" fans tend to focus on what ends up being the RESULT of his defense (if he got beat, if he was forced to foul, if the opponent just shot over him). The truth is Hinrich's versatility is by nature going to be a direct result of Situation.
By now we all know the Thibs defensive system is a strange variation of Man and Zone which essentially funnels the ball handler into where the defense is at its strongest (usually with a shot blocker directly between the ball handler and basket and defenders on either side of the ball handler), In essence this system is great for hinrich, especially if he is playing at PG. Since most pgs wont be able to just shoot over hinrich, hinrich should be able to defend them well at the perimeter while conceding the pgs ability to drive to the rim. Hinrich is a good enough defender and as mentioned above coveted by coaches for his intelligence on the court, so he will always be able to help dictate that if the pg does beat hinrich it will ultimately be working in favor of the thibs system.
One real flaw in hinrichs defense though has always been the inability to play offensive players that can put their back to the basket. Whether it be tall guards like kobe bryant and joe johnson or smaller guards like chauncey billups and delonte west, hinrich has always been bested by those players because of his inability to counter and back to the basket moves (since he doesnt have any tremendous leaping ability or a long wingspan he is unable to close the gap between shots).
Hinrich on Offense
On Offense Hinrich is again in a battle of tradeoffs. From a skill set point of view Hinrich has everything you could ask of a Combo guard. He is a good ball handler, he constantly keeps his head up and has the ability to dribble out of sticky situations. He has the ability to shoot the ball from mid and long range, and his form is generally very smooth and quick. He works well without the ball, setting screens and is active enough running past screens both with and without the ball. Yet despite having the skill set he has very inherent flaws.
He fails at a shooting guard because he simply lacks the mentality of a scorer. There is a very obvious double mindedness in his game. While he keeps his head up dribbling, he sometimes fails to look at the rim and fails to realize when he has an open jumper. Other times its the exact opposite as he will rush down and take a bad midrange jumper.
Speaking of midrange jumpers, he relies on those more often than he should, constantly dribbling into the most inefficient shot in basketball (the long range shots that are only worth 2 points). On spot up situations he often hesitates on shots and often fails to make defenders pay for missteps like biting on pump fakes or pass fakes. He is notorious for dribbling towards the rim, and again fails to look for his shot and goes deep in the paint just to dribble back out when no one was available for receiving a pass. Then there are times when he does attempt layups only to release them too strong or too short due to what i could only imagine is fear that a more athletic defender might intervene with the shot.
As a point guard hinrich's flaws are more due to his lack of what i call imagination on offense. Hinrich is a very good passer and does a good of job of being accurate and throwing the right pass. What he fails at however is taking risks or creating a play when the offense breaks down. every now and then hinrich will throw a lob, or on a fast break with no trailing defenders do a no look bounce pass, but aside from those rare occasions hinrich rarely strays from the straight forward chest pass or bounce pass.
This leads to the criticism that hinrich 'likes' to dribble away the shot clock. Yes, there are many moments where hinrich stands at the top of the key dribbling and not moving, but it isnt because he went brain dead or is incapable of taking his defender. It is more because he waiting for the offensive play that was called to be ran, for an offensive player to hit his curl or get free from his defender to start the next phase of the offense. Of course none of that really matters when there's only 10 seconds left on the shot-clock.
This isnt as bad, imo, as jl3 who would dribble away the shot-clock mainly because he was looking for HIS own shot.
Hinrich and the Thibs System
So reading all that, most of you are probably concluding what you already felt. Hinrich, despite what he is supposedly capable of doing, has enough flaws that make him incapable of doing what he is supposed to do. Right? Well....wrong....
Like i briefly mentioned with defense, hinrich is a situational guy. He has the tools to do quite a bit on an NBA team, but he has to constantly be put in the position where he can play to his strengths and use those tools, while his flaws remain hidden. Luckily the bulls are coached by Thibs. Its no surprise that Hinrich found success playing for hard assed x's and o's genius, Scott Skiles, and that the beginning of his decline coincided when the bulls collectively tuned out skiles and he quit.
Hinrich then played for idiots in boylan and negro, and spent half a season playing alongside the knuckle-heads of the wizards, before playing in a very ISO-centric atlanta system which saw joe johnson as the primary ball handler and a very good young talent in teague emerge. In other words, the situations were never designed to tailor hinrichs needs.
The thibs system however...is.
Defensively its pretty easy to see where hinrich will fit in. Thibs system is more about execution than anything. Hinrich does enough of the little things right where he can constantly stay with ball handlers and badger them, and the thibs system is all about funneling the ball handler meaning hinrich doesnt have to remain in front of the quicker guards as much as just dictate they go where the defense wants them to go and provide quick rotation and help defense where needed. As long as Hinrich does not have to consistently guard taller 2 guards, the thibs system will always have counters for fast guards who might blow past hinrich, and strong guards who are looking to post up hinrich (tall 2s will be able to shoot over hinrich).
Hinrichs and the PnR
On offense its a bit trickier to see where Hinrich would fit in. For one thing, thibs himself is a pretty smart coach when it comes to X's and Os, so he wont be running a lot of iso plays or plays that end with one option and then its all about to hinrich to try to play make. Another thing that is often overlooked is that hinrich might be the best pick and roll player the bulls have had in the last decade.
according to draft express Hinrich "Gets about half of his offense off of pick and rolls". Now this was written in 2008 and what is pretty interesting about this is that the bulls really never had any good pick and roll big men through that year and the years before. Not only that, but the bulls really didnt run very efficient pick and roll plays to begin with. Skiles ran a motion type offense which was more about getting the ball and players moving for wide open jumpers, and while vinny did like to run screen and roll plays, they were overly simplistic and highly repetitive.
The difference going into this year is not just that the bulls the last two years have been known for using heavy doses of the pick and roll(fade, pop) game (with variations of the flex implemented through out) but they also have a player who also found most of his careers success through playing in the pick and roll....yes...Carlos THE FUCKING LOSER Boozer.
By now most of you should be finishing up laughing at the obvious conclusion i was making, that hinrich and boozer....the two most hated and overpaid bulls, are going to somehow combine their talents and create some sort of positive impact.....yes....that seems like a fairy tail.
Boozer however has really not been played in many pick and roll scenarios, mainly because he was often used as the pop or fade guy (since out of all our bigs he had the most reliable jumper). With rose, boozer often had to fade or pop to allow rose the clear lane because lets face it, rose is going to be a million times more effective driving to the rim than boozer can ever pray to be. With cj and jl3, boozer was trying to play off of two guards who were more comfortable in taking their own jumper as opposed to finding a way to feed the ball accurately into the roller. In fact, the most efficient ive seen boozer in recent times were near the end of the season when boozer played alongside Mike James (who?), who was decent at the pick and roll game.
So while i dont expect Hinrich to somehow make Boozer live up to his contract, Im not sure deron wiliiams, steve nash or chris paul could even do that, i do think hinrich can introduce a steady diet of an element that has been sorely lacking from boozers game since utah.
USG% PER and The Captain
Finally something i found interesting...
To put it simply hinrich's effectiveness is in somewhat of a direct correlation with his usg. Looking at cj and jl3's usg% numbers shows that in thibs system that pg is tasked with a huge increase of ball dominating duties. Even rose, who was always well above 20 since his rookie year suddenly spiked to above 30 in the Thibs system. Hinrich was always a ball dominating guard, so in atlanta and washington where there were other primarily ball handlers established he really never was able to get a groove going. In fact in washington his best stint happened when he was the starting pg for the wizards while wall was out with injury. So for this year i expect hinrich to have a very efficient year, and as long as he only plays backup pg next year, i feel he will be able to keep up that production. Hinrich should average a usage of 20 in the two years hes in chicago under the thibs system, and historically speaking hinrich's lowest per when having a usg% over 20 is 15.3. Oj mayo for example, has constantly had years with a usg% above 20 and never been able to top 15, hinrich's highest per came in 2006 at 17, with his second highest usg%
So there we have it. I dont think hinrich will be some perfect player or suddenly become a fringe all-star...but i think the thibs system will be a good situation for him where he can at the very least be a net positive for the team and more like his Past self as opposed to his recent self. Hinrich's game was never really based on his athleticism or quickness since he was never known for attacking the rim or taking defenders off the dribble, so i dont expect his age to have as much factor on his game (though i fully expect nagging injuries),
For me all this information really proves that hinrich could have been a valuable cog if this team had for the most part kept its contending level identity. So while i fully expect to see good play from Captain Kirk, I dont expect it to be enough to help rose yield a championship level team. Who knows though, it might be enough to meet and take out an over confident Miami Heat team.