Richard Hamilton is by no means the "Rip" of old, but he still has value and is currently an integral member of the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls. Through seven games, he is averaging 12.7 points per game in just 26.3 minutes per outing.
There is currently debate over whether Hamilton should remain in the Windy City throughout this season or if the Bulls should deal him in the coming weeks.
Some argue that he's not productive enough to warrant his pay for this season ($5 million), and that the Bulls should bid farewell to the veteran swingman. Some argue that he's simply not the 2-guard of the future to pair next to Derrick Rose, so the Bulls might as well get rid of him.
While these reasons may hold merit when it comes to the future, they do not hold merit in regards to this season. Dealing Hamilton during this season would be a foolish mistake, and there are numerous reasons why such a maneuver lacks sense.
First of all, the Bulls would not receive much at all in return for Hamilton. He's 34 years old, and he would likely just become a "rental" player, as his contract features a $5 million option for next season (which seemingly no team would want to pick up).
Therefore, other teams will view him as a washed-up veteran with playoff experience, and they may (key word: may) be willing to give up a late first-round or second-round pick for him. Or, perhaps a team would be willing to part ways with a young, underachieving player.
It's not like the Bulls can deal Hamilton and inherit a very promising piece to their future in return. Interested teams are simply not going to give up much to receive an aging "Rip."
Secondly, dealing Hamilton would be suspect because the Bulls lack depth at the 2-guard. If they trade Hamilton, they are essentially conceding this season. Now, one might argue that this season is already gone because of Rose's injury, but the latest news is that Rose has started cutting (via espn.com), conveying that his return will likely happen at some point during this campaign.
Because of this, it's not illogical for the Bulls to hold out hope that they can make a run come the 2013 playoffs. If Rose can return to form and everyone else remains healthy, Chicago won't be a team that will exit the postseason easily.
In fact, elite teams like the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics would surely not want to meet a surging Bulls squad in the first or second round. It's not outlandish to think that, if healthy, the Bulls could pull a shocker and oust a top-notch team.
But if the Bulls trade Hamilton, this hope is thrown out the window. They would then be forced to trust a defensively inept Marco Belinelli and an inconsistent Jimmy Butler at the shooting guard position. This would almost surely come back to bite them in the playoffs, and the Bulls would be much better off with the veteran Hamilton at least providing some offensive stability.
While he is not be the long-term answer at the two-spot, he is their best option this season and they're wise to retain him because of this. You never know if the Bulls could hit their stride at the right time and, Rip could prove to be an instrumental factor in this.
Lastly, Hamilton boasts championship experience. He's the Bulls most seasoned player, and he knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run.
Quite frankly, who knows how pivotal Hamilton would've been in the playoffs last season if Rose hadn't gotten hurt? He could've become the X-factor that pushed the Bulls to the NBA Finals.
The bottom line is that Rip can still be a difference-maker, and he is a difficult weapon to defend. He's constantly moving without the ball, giving opponents another threat to keep in mind. He's still more than capable of chipping in 20 points on a given night, and this potency is not something to flippantly trade away.
It's evident that there are numerous reasons why trading Hamilton would be a questionable decision. In the minds of many Bulls fans, there's hope that the team could land something worthy in return for him. But that will not happen.
This amplifies why trading Hamilton is unnecessary, especially since Hamilton still has value and could be influential for the Bulls throughout 2012-13.
Rip's not the answer for the coming years, but he is right now. Therefore, Bulls fans should think optimistically and hope that Hamilton's most valuable days as a Bull are ahead of him.