When the Bulls signed Kirk Hinrich, we heard all about how they liked his ability to play both guard positions and how he was a guy who could mesh well playing alongside Derrick Rose. We of course never got to see the tandem in action last year, but heading into this season, we once again heard all about how dangerous the pairing could be.
I kind of scoffed at all of the talk surrounding the duo's "dangerous" potential (mainly because of my lack of faith in Hinrich), and things certainly weren't pretty when they played together this season before Rose tore his meniscus. In the 102 minutes the two played together, the Bulls were outscored by 20.2 points per 100 possessions.
There were obviously a bevy of reasons for the struggles. Rose was extremely rusty and nowhere close to his MVP form, while Hinrich played extremely poorly over the course of the first half of the season. And outside of those two, guys like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson weren't playing at the level they are now. Noah's early struggles especially had a major impact, as the trio of Rose-Hinrich-Noah was outscored by 27.9 points per 100 possessions in 72 minutes. There's also something to be said about small sample sizes here, but the early returns were dreadful.
But while the Rose-Hinrich pairing was poor this season, the duo of Hinrich and D.J. Augustin has been lights out. yfBB kind of noted in the Wolves recap how crazy it was that the Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the NBA with those two closing games out, and when you look at the numbers, you see why those two see crunch-time minutes together.
In 441 minutes together, the Hinrich-Augustin pairing has posted a net rating of 12.3. When you narrow it down to just the fourth quarter, the duo isn't quite as good, with a net rating of "just" 8.7. Still really good.
Just like there were plenty of reasons why the Rose-Hinrich pairing didn't work at the beginning of the year, there are reasons why the Augustin-Hinrich pairing has. Augustin, outside of one poor month, has simply been a revelation in Chicago. And he has been really good since the All-Star Break:
D.J. Augustin since ASW: 27.9 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 43.8% FG, 46.5% 3PT. Oh, and one pretty shot chart: pic.twitter.com/KRrWNzXBpZ— The Traveling Crab (@crabdribbles) April 10, 2014
Hinrich has also been MUCH better of late, shooting 43.9 percent overall and 47.1 percent from three since the break. When your two guards are hitting roughly 47 percent of their three-point attempts, good things will happen.
Part of the reason those two have shot so well is because of Noah. Thanks to Noah's ability to run offense from the high post, Augustin and Hinrich can work off the ball and free themselves for quality shots. The Bulls love to run that two-man game on the wings with a guard and Noah, which has led to countless good looks from long range. Enough can't be said about the chemistry that has been developed between these guys on the offensive end.
And while a Augustin-Hinrich pairing might not be ideal on the defensive end, it works just fine for the Bulls because they can throw out three elite players at the other three positions in Noah, Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Not to mention Hinrich isn't too shabby himself.
At this time, you might be asking yourself how well that lineup has performed this season. Glad you asked, because the Augustin-Hinrich-Butler-Gibson-Noah lineup is outscoring opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions in 200 minutes this season. It's the Bulls' most-used lineup in the fourth quarter this season (and second overall), and it's outscoring teams by 8.7 points per 100 possessions in 153 fourth-quarter minutes (matching the Hinrich-Augustin fourth-quarter net rating).
But this isn't the only unit killing it in the fourth quarter this year. The Bulls' second-most used fourth-quarter lineup (and third overall) is Augustin-Dunleavy-Butler-Gibson-Noah, and they're outscoring opponents by a whopping 16.0 points per 100 possessions in 118 minutes. This group was absolutely dominant in 10 minutes against the Wolves.
So yeah, the Bulls have found something good here with these closing units. And it helps explain why they're on the verge ofwinning 50 games this season. I'm sure these groups won't have as much success in the postseason when they face tougher defenses and more scouting, but Bulls fans should feel pretty good about their chances of making a nice run.
All lineup data from NBA.com's stats page