Marco Belinelli: Should He Remain a Starter Once Rip Hamilton Returns?

James Tillman IIIAnalyst IMarch 11, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 26: Marco Bellinelli #8 of the Chicago Bulls moves against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center on February 26, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cavaliers defeated the Bulls 101-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When the Chicago Bulls signed Marco Belinelli over the summer, my reaction was less than enthusiastic.

In fact, I thought the team was making a big mistake, and my feeling was there was no way Belinelli would be able to replace Kyle Korver’s ability to stretch opposing defenses with solid perimeter shooting.

During the early portion of the season, it appeared that my assessment was correct, as Belinelli struggled on both ends of the floor, and as a result, his playing time was limited.

In spite of his shortcomings early on, things began to change once Belinelli was given the opportunity to start, due to Rip Hamilton battling an assortment of injuries during the year.

Once Belinelli began playing with the starters, not only did his confidence grow, but his scoring increased as well.

When Belinelli comes off the bench, he only averages eight points per game, while shooting 39 percent from the floor.

In the games he has started, Belinelli is averaging a respectable 15 points per contest and connecting on 42 percent of his shot attempts.

With Belinelli playing well in Hamilton’s absence, the question becomes, should he replace Hamilton as the starting 2-guard for the remainder of the season?

This may sound crazy, because the Bulls acquired Hamilton with the hopes of giving Derrick Rose some additional scoring punch in the backcourt.

However, in comparing Belinelli’s numbers to Hamilton’s, I discovered their averages are nearly identical.

Both guards give the Bulls 10 points, two rebounds and two assists per game. What gives Belinelli the edge is that he has also spent time playing the point guard spot and is averaging nearly five assists per game in his last four outings.

Another factor that plays in Belinelli’s favor is durability. Hamilton is no longer in the prime of his career and has only appeared in 73 games for the Bulls since joining the team prior to the 2011-2012 season.

Belinelli has played in 61 games this year alone, which shows that he is capable of handling extended minutes at different positions, without health being an issue.

Hamilton brings a number of intangibles to the table when he is able to play. In the end though, with his health status being a constant concern, the Bulls would be best suited to keep Belinelli as part of the starting rotation rather than bringing him off the bench.