NBA Free Agency 2012: Why Kirk Hinrich Makes Chicago Bulls Favorites in the East

Joshua GreenContributor IIIJuly 8, 2012

Captain Kirk returns to make the Bulls frontrunners once again.
Captain Kirk returns to make the Bulls frontrunners once again.

So the Bulls have made what most consider to be the smallest splash of free agency this summer (so far).

But many underestimate the value of a player like Kirk Hinrich, who is returning to Chicago, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Hinrich once led the Bulls to several playoff appearances from 2004-2010. While Ben Gordon and others were also crucial to the team's playoff contention during those years, it was Captain Kirk who was the facilitator on offense.

At one point during his stint with the Chicago Bulls, Kirk averaged 16.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals on 45 percent shooting (42 percent from three-point range)

Granted, Kirk is no longer the floor general he once was, nor has he been much of an offensive contributor. But one must understand that in recent seasons Kirk hasn't played nearly the number of minutes that he's been accustomed and his production and efficiency has suffered as a result.

That's just how the system worked in Atlanta and Washington. Even in the games he did play, Kirk started just over half, so those averages above deserve to be a bit higher.

The Bulls had the best record in the East last year despite a subpar year from Carlos Boozer and injuries sidelining Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton. They won mainly because role players came up big.

Don't believe me? Look at the second-highest plus-minus rating of the Bulls last year. Aside from Luol Deng, the highest ratings belong to members of the Bench Mob. 

The Bulls are likely to lose Asik, but, in some ways, that is more of pro than con. For consistency's sake, let's say the Bulls at least hang on to Kyle Korver. 

Add Hinrich to the mix in place of John Lucas III, and you've got a former starter as your backup point guard (once Rose is back to 100 percent). That backcourt rotation will be lethal—especially when Rose returns—because you can then utilize Hinrich as a backup 2-guard to Hamilton, giving the Bulls a lot of passing ability in the backcourt.

In many ways, Hinrich is just as good a passer as Rose, if not more so since he has to focus on playmaking rather than driving to the basket. Their career assist numbers are even similar, with Rose dishing out 6.7 assists per game compared to Hinrich's per-game average of just under six.

We can all agree that Hinrich is much better than C.J. Watson as a backup PG. The numbers don't lie.

In terms of the more-accurate Ast% (percentage of field goals a player assisted on), Hinrich as a sizable advantage (27 percent to Watson's 19 percent). 

What matters most, though, is how Hinrich would contribute come playoff time. Here, he would truly make the Bulls the favorites in the East.

In the playoffs, Hinrich is the better player by far.

Kirk Hinrich: 13.4 Pts, 4.7 Ast, 3.4 Rebs, 43 percent shooting.

Advanced stats: 25.5 Ast percentage, 111 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating, .116 Wins Share per 48 (league avg. .100) all on 54.2 True Shooting percentage.

C.J. Watson: 4.3 Pts, 2.9 Ast, 1.2 Rebs, 28 percent shooting. 

Advanced stats: 36.0 Ast percentage, 86 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating, .000 Wins Share per 48, 37.7 True Shooting percentage.

As you can see, Watson pales in comparison to Hinrich in the postseason. The .000 Wins Share score effectively means that, though he does put up some numbers, Watson contributes very little towards winning.

These stats indicate that Hinrich—who has a history of performing under playoff pressure—is going to help create one of the best backcourts in the NBA.

And let's not forget the addition of Marquis Teague, who will provide some more relief at the guard positions. 

A very dangerous guard rotation indeed.