Assessing the value of Hinrich, Gordon, etc.

[From the FanPosts. A must-read when it comes to thinking about a future Bulls backcourt. -ed]

With the all the arguing over whether to keep Gordon or Hinrich or both.  And with Derrick Rose potentially altering a backcourt that has been essentially the same for four seasons, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the history of the team's backcourt over the last three seasons.  Hinrich, Gordon, and Duhon have played over 89% of the available minutes in the backcourt over the last four seasons and with Duhon finally not returning the backcourt will be significantly different next year even if Rose isn't selected.  Since there has been so much arguing over the value of Gordon's offense or Hinrich's defense, I thought the plus/minus numbers would be worth looking at to give people an idea of their value offensively and defensively.

I took the player pairs data for the last three seasons from 82games and added up the totals for each of the three backcourt combinations of Duhon, Hinrich, and Gordon.  This gave me the raw plus/minus numbers for each backcourt with a sample size of at least 2385 minutes.   Because the three players played nearly all the minutes in the backcourt and all three started significant amounts of games, and because of the large sample sizes these plus/minus numbers can be looked at seriously without the need for adjustments.  I pretty much knew what the results would be having looked closely at the individual seasons, but it's easier to show with the cumlative numbers.

The Bulls as a team scored 96.4 pts/48 min with Duhon on the floor over the last three seasons.  They scored 97.5 with Hinrich on the floor and 99.9 pts/48 min with Gordon on the floor.   What's interesting about the offensive numbers is that whether Gordon was paired with Hinrich or Duhon, the team was still able to score around 100 pts per game.  And the Duhon/Hinrich packcourt produced 97 pts/game.

Player Duhon Hinrich Gordon Duhon Duhon Hinrich


Hinrich Gordon Gordon

Min 5542 8166 7473 2843 2385 4808

+/- 0.1 0.9 1.3 -0.6 1.1 2.2
Off 96.4 97.5 99.2 97.0 100.6 99.9
Def 96.3 96.6 97.9 97.6 99.5 97.7

Gordon's scoring matters, especially because he can carry his teammates.  This is seen with how each played with Thabo Sefolosha on the floor over the last two seasons.  All three paired with Sefolosha a roughly equal amount of minutes.  With Sefolosha and Gordon on the floor the offense only dropped to 98.8 pts.  When paired with Hinrich the offense dropped to 95.9 points and then disaster struck with Duhon and an offense that scored only 93.3 points.  These numbers suffer some from Thabo playing more than a quarter of minutes at SF, but they still illustrate the backcourt dynamics well.

Player Thabo Thabo Thabo Thabo
Duhon Hinrich Gordon
Min 2303 1007 912 1010
+/- -0.7 -2.6 -0.3 0.2
Off 95.4 93.3 95.9 98.8
Def 96.1 95.8 96.1 98.6

Now defensively notice that the defense was worse with Gordon on the floor, but notice that Hinrich/Gordon was just as good as Hinrich/Duhon.  It was Duhon/Gordon combination that struggled.  But, Gordon's offense allowed the team to maintain a positive point differential.  Last season was the only season where the best two combinations of Hinrich, Gordon, and Duhon didn't both include Gordon, which is why his awful plus/minus this last season should be seen as an aberration.

I appreciate the value Hinrich brings to the table.  If his performance rebounds to near 06/07 levels then I would place him among the ten best PGs in the league.   But, if Rose is drafted and it's choice between Hinrich and Gordon.  Gordon needs to be the one that stays.  Hinrich's defense isn't good enough to justify playing him significant minutes out of position on both ends of the floor, especially when he is barely adequate offensively as a SG.  More importantly, Gordon's value to the offense outweighs the defensive question marks.  Both Gordon's defensive deficiencies and turnover problems have been greatly exaggerated.  In the midst of Gordon's difficulties getting a good shot off in his last second opportunities and some dumb passes, Gordon posted a career low TO% that was the best among the Bulls' guards.  Plus a lot of the that stuff will go away when the ball is in the hands of the #1 overall pick at the end of the shot clock, whether it is Rose or Beasley.   In addition the Gordon/Thabo backcourt has been just as successful as the Hinrich/Thabo backcourt.  And it's a lot easier for me to envision Gordon/Thabo improving defensively than Hinrich/Thabo improving offensively.

I'm also comfortable keeping Gordon if Rose is picked because I believe Rose can defend SGs.  Rose is an 1'1/4" shorter than Hinrich, but he has 2" longer wingspan and the same standing reach.  Rose is also 10 lbs. heavier and benched the same amount as when Hinrich was drafted.  Add to that Rose's significantly greater jumping ability and it appears likely that Rose will play at least as big as Hinrich.  The question will be whether he will be as relentless as Kirk is defensively.  And in many cases, SG will be the easier position to defend because Rose biggest struggle defensively eight now is containing dribble penetration.  It's not perfect, but it's better than playing a lesser player than Gordon just because he's taller.  I hope that sheds some light on the value of the backcourt players over the last three seasons, and their value going into the future.

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