Explaining why I'm lukewarm on the Kirk Hinrich trade

First thing's first: there are a lot of things to like about the move to trade Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to the Atlanta Hawks for Mike Bibby, Mo Evans, Jordan Crawford and a 2011 first-round pick. Namely:

  • The Wizards have followed their philosophy of always acquiring a prospect and a pick in trades.
  • The Wizards pulled a sneaky Oklahoma City-like move in terms of asset management, parlaying a veteran like Kirk Hinrich into two first-round picks and Jordan Crawford. For comparison's sake, the Thunder got two first-round picks for taking on Kurt Thomas, then a third for trading him. Then again, they used two of those picks on Serge Ibaka and to trade for Thabo Sefolosha, which is a better use of the assets they got.
  • The Wizards understood that Hinrich, while productive, was not an essential long-term piece, and were proactive about doing something about it.
  • Mo Evans, if he sticks around, is a pretty solid veteran just like Hinrich that stands in the corner and shoots threes.
  • Jordan Crawford dunked on LeBron James, which is awesome.
So it's not a bad trade.  In fact, as I've been typing this, I've been feeling better and better about it.  But I also don't think it's the slam dunk that others do, and personally, I probably would have passed on it and tried another plan.  Let me explain why after the jump.  I don't begrudge anyone for disagreeing here (as long as you don't call me names!) -- just trying to provide a full perspective of where my mind is at.

Part of my issue is that I've come to realize that Kirk Hinrich was very underappreciated here by many, including myself.  Hinrich wasn't the transformative leader that the team hyped him as, but he was productive, competitive and professional.  He started off poorly as the starting shooting guard, but once he was shifted into being a sixth man and a third guard that played fewer minutes, he thrived.  He had a bit of a rough shooting stretch in January, but bounced back in a big way in February and always played solid defense.  Overall, this was the best shooting year of his career.

He was also a good pro on a team that has few.  No, he wasn't a leader, and yes, he was somewhat expensive, but I do think John Wall, for one, legitimately appreciated him.  Michael Lee has said as much, and I could see it a bit too in the time I made it down to Verizon.  So with all this in mind, the stuff Wall said after the Wizards' loss to the 76ers looms large.

"It's just so frustrating to see certain guys that don't give the effort out there, that don't care.  That's the toughest thing for me.  No matter if I'm having a good game or a bad game, I may show frustration, but I'm going to compete.  My whole life is competing, and that's what we got to do."

Say what you want about Hinrich, but he competed.  Wins and losses don't really matter, but building a good culture does, and Hinrich probably helped there.  Now, that's one less player that truly cares, at least in the eyes of the star.  I'm not sure about the message that itself sends at this point.  Mike Bibby, too, is a veteran, but his effort level tanked right before he was traded from the Kings when they started to get bad, and I'm sure he's pretty pissed about going from starting on a playoff team to this mess.  The similarities between Bibby and Hinrich, on the surface, seem to only come from their years of experience.

(In case you are asking, yes, I am renouncing prior opposition to the Hinrich trade.  Ernie Grunfeld's perspective won out there).

That said, I get that moving Hinrich for more young players is a tough thing to pass up.  Does this trade qualify enough to me?  I have my doubts.

Part of my issue here is that I don't think Jordan Crawford is all that good.  Crawford strikes me as one of those NCAA Tournament stars that gets overrated because people see him then.  He hasn't played very much this year, but when he has, it hasn't been pretty (7.5 PER, 42.1% TS%, an astronomical 27.9% usage rate).  Granted, it's 160 minutes, he's been hurt and he's still just 22, but the only real flashes that we've seen is him going crazy in a preseason game against the Wizards.  I'm also confused about his long-term projected role.  Is he a Nick Young replacement?  Is he a point guard?  Is he instant offense off the bench at a cheaper price than Young?  I just don't see a built-in role for him in the future.  Instead, I see Ernie Grunfeld and company doing another one of those "take a flyer" trades that, increasingly, seem to be falling short.  (I'd expand more, but Sean has a big post planned on that subject for next week).

The saving grace of the trade to many is the draft pick, and I admit it's nice to get.  It's probably a low pick (Atlanta would pick 22nd now), but those are the picks that can be good to have if used to take good role players.  Then again, we're also forgetting that trades aren't the only way to acquire those picks.  The reality of the NBA today, especially with the possibility of significant salary rollbacks under a new CBA, is that low first-round picks aren't very valuable to contending teams.  Last year, the Grizzlies gave away the 25th pick for $3 million in cash, and the Hawks dumped the 24th pick to trade down for even less cash.  This year, the Lakers already dumped their first-round pick to get Sasha Vujacic off their payroll, and the Raptors dumped theirs from the Heat for James Johnson, who stinks.  Teams don't want that guaranteed contract on their books unless it has to be.  I'm confident that, if the Wizards really wanted to, they could have spent $3 million themselves and bought a pick. They haven't done it yet, but to really commit to building through the draft, they should.  They're already saving money on not having a big payroll.

(As far as specifics: I doubt Chicago (26 and 28 today) wants both their late picks, Orlando's (23) payroll is massive and Atlanta may have sold the pick anyway after their inevitable early playoff exit).  

It's also worth noting that the Wizards won't save much money with this deal.  Hinrich is scheduled to make $8 million next season, while Bibby and Crawford combined will make $7.5 million (Evans is an expiring contract).  That's a difference that won't even cover a minimum salary.  Add on the additional draft pick, and the Wizards actually take on slightly more salary next season.  So as much as the Wizards want to tout being "financially flexible," as their press release put it, this doesn't really help much at all on that front specifically.

So in the end, given the option between trading Hinrich to get an additional first-round pick and a marginal prospect or keeping Hinrich, forgetting the marginal prospect and simply buying another pick, I'd choose option B.  That's why I'm pretty lukewarm about this one.    

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