It has been nearly four years since Kirk Hinrich took the floor as a member of the Atlanta Hawks and, quite frankly, a lot has changed. Hinrich started 53 of the 72 games he appeared in for the Hawks in 2011 and 2012, and while he was a veteran player at the ages of 30 and 31, it was perfectly reasonable to view him as a starter-quality point guard for a team that, at the time, desperately needed that type of steadying force.
Again, things have changed.
Before we break down what to expect from Hinrich, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution brings word directly from the mouth of Mike Budenholzer, as he addressed the media on Thursday evening.
And far as the transaction today, we are very excited about adding Kirk Hinrich to our group. A veteran point guard who can really play both positions in the backcourt, the 1 and the 2. He’s a very competitive guy. I think he’s a very smart player. He is going to fit in. He is one of those players who has a lot of the qualities that we value and we look for. When I spoke to him, I said he’s going to help us somehow, some way, in a regular-season game, in a playoff game.
While there were (obviously) more comments from Budenholzer, we can take it from here. First, the Hawks are "set" at the point guard position for the remainder of the 2015-2016 season. Both Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder were retained at the deadline despite rumblings of a trade market and, to put it frankly, each Atlanta point guard is significantly better than the now 35-year-old version of Kirk Hinrich.
Hinrich has appeared in only 35 games for the Chicago Bulls this season, playing only 15.9 minutes per game, and over the past two seasons, his production has fallen off a cliff. During that time, Hinrich has posted a 48.2% true shooting with a 7.0 PER (not a misprint), and even with a solid 36.2% clip from three-point range, his field goal percentage has been a ghastly 37.9% in the last 101 games.
On the defensive end, Hinrich can still act as a deterrent to the opposition in that he is a "pest", but in short, he has performed as a well below-average defender in recent years. Over the past two seasons, his individual defensive rating (as assigned by Basketball-Reference) has been a highly uninspiring 108, and the eye test confirms that even a high-effort player like Hinrich can produce woeful results on that end of the floor at times.
Later in Budenholzer's press conference, he was prompted about Hinrich potentially playing more minutes (especially when compared to Shelvin Mack) given his assumed competency at shooting guard. Budenholzer indicated that he "wouldn't characterize it as I seem him more as a 2 or a 1 or anything like that", but in order for Hinrich to see the floor, he would certainly have better chance off the ball.
Unfortunately for those thinking about Hinrich as a solution there, it is tough to profess that he would be any sort of upgrade over the likes of Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore or Tim Hardaway Jr. at the position. Given his relative lack of size at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, playing the two was always something of a stretch even in his prime, but Hinrich's decreasing athleticism would make it difficult for him to function there, and his shooting (while stellar this year at 41.1% from three) isn't enough to combat that.
In the end, this smells like a move that serves three purposes. First, the three-way deal will open up a bit of cap space for this summer, even with the fact that Hinrich makes more than Mack this season, simply because Justin Holiday's $1 million+ contract is off the books. Second, Atlanta opens up a roster spot, and Budenholzer was vocal about the flexibility that provides with the injury to Tiago Splitter and potential frontcourt depth concerns. Lastly, Budenholzer spoke about Hinrich helping the team "somehow, some way... in a playoff game", and while outsiders may snicker at the thought of his veteran "presence", that could be a real thing from the Hawks perspective.
Simply put, Kirk Hinrich isn't particularly good at basketball anymore and he may not be any type of on-court upgrade over Shelvin Mack. However, Mack was buried at the end of the bench until an injury or blowout prompted an appearance, and as long as Hinrich is given the same treatment, the actual basketball impact of this week's trade should be minimal. What will change that analysis, though, is if Budenholzer and the staff elect to entrust Hinrich with minutes at shooting guard, and it is difficult to see how that decision would improve the basketball team.