With the first day of Wizards training camp coming, Bullets Forever is asking 20 questions about key issues with the team in 2010/11.
When Kirk Hinrich was acquired this summer in the deal that brought in Kevin Seraphin, his role in the trade was clear. Chicago didn't want to get rid of Hinrich, but needed to unload his salary to make a run at this summer's free agent crop. Washington wanted to add young talent and were willing to take on that salary for the next two years in order to get another draft pick.
In the locker room, Hinrich's role is clear as well. As the team's second oldest player (behind only Josh Howard) Kirk is expected to bring a veteran presence on a team with six players under the age of 25 on the roster at the moment.
But where does he actually fit in the Wizards' plans on the floor? With John Wall and Gilbert Arenas in the fold, Hinrich is the team's third best guard by default, but his ability to play at and defend both guard positions make him an interesting player on the roster, which leads us to the next question in our series:
How and where will Kirk Hinrich play this year?
To begin, I think its important to establish that since Ernie Grunfeld came to Washington, he's always been in search of a combo guard off the bench to complement Gilbert Arenas. Juan Dixon was the first player Grunfeld pegged to fill this role, while Arenas meshed with Larry Hughes. Once that fell through, he turned his eyes and his wallet to Antonio Daniels, who only truly got to fill that role for a season and a half, due to Gilbert's injuries. Last year, Randy Foye was supposed to be that guy, but injuries, suspensions and Foye's unsteady play kept Grunfeld on the hunt for another player to fill that role. Enter Kirk Hinrich.
When he's paired with John Wall, he spaces the floor for Wall's drives and gives him a kick-out option when he takes it to the hoop. When he's paired with Arenas, he can either handle the ball and let Gilbert focus on creating his own shot, or he be the same kick-out option for Arenas when he has the ball in his hands. It also helps that Hinrich can focus on the other team's best threat on the other side of the floor, which makes Arenas' life easier. If you pair him with Nick Young, you have a firm defensive backcourt with an experience man running the point who can put Young in the best spots on the floor to be effective.
Hinrich's versatilty is his strength, but it also confounds his role. To clear up how his minutes will be distributed between each guard spot, let's take a look back at 2008-09 Bulls, who had a similar backcourt situation. Derrick Rose was entering his rookie year, shouldering the load of being the face of the franchise, much like John Wall. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon was lining up at shooting guard, and was still expected to be the team's primary scoring threat while Rose developed his offensive game, in the same way that Gilbert Arenas will still be the Wizards' primary scorer, even though he's no longer the face of the franchise.
During that year, Hinrich played 33 percent of the Bulls' available minutes, spending 15 percent at point guard and 18 percent at shooting guard (a 44/56 split), according to 82 games. The most effective lineup Hinrich was a part of that season, featured him at point guard, though that five man squad only played 45 minutes together that season. The good news is the numbers between each spot are relatively steady, which is just what you want from someone who's going to spend a fairly even amount of time at each spot this season.
In the end, I'm guessing Hinrich will spend a little more time at shooting guard, since Arenas will handle the ball more than Gordon did in Chicago. I think a 40/60 split between point guard and shooting guard sounds about right this season. However, it remains to be seen just how many minutes per game Flip Saunders will invest in a Hinrich-Young backcourt. Depending on how well Wall and Arenas mesh, Hinrich could see more time at the point with Young if Saunders wants to keep his starters' minutes more consistent with one another.
Figuring out how wall Wall and Arenas fit together with one another is a discussion for another day, but regardless of how that pans out, Kirk Hinrich will find a way to fit in with whoever he's playing beside. As long as injuries don't throw rotations out of whack this season, Ernie Grunfeld may have finally found the guy he's been looking for to be the team's top guard coming off of the bench.