Deconstructing Hinrich’s Versatility
During Hinrich’s introductory presser at the Verizon Center this past Monday, Chris Marks of Prince George’s Community Television asked him what position he thought would best fit him in DC. Hinrich responded with a laugh:
Well we’re going to figure that out. I don’t know exactly. I probably feel more comfortable playing the one, it’s a little easier. But I feel I’m very capable of playing both positions and I think starting in training camp that’s going to be a challenge, trying to figure out exactly where I fit in and what I need to do to help the team.
This of course begs the question: Where does the Wizards’ factotum fit? (And is he a better PG than a SG?)
I headed over to 82games to find out.
The first metric I looked at was Win%, defined as the chance of winning the Chicago Bulls had with Kirk Hinrich on the floor. During his time in Chicago, Hinrich gave the Bulls a 46.8% chance of winning. Hinrich’s highest Win% was 60.3% in ’06-’07 and his lowest was 30.3% in his rookie season. That number is respectable, but is a cold, indurating indicator that Hinrich is not a gamechanger. To put this statistic in perspective, LeBron James’ career Win% is 67.8%. (His career high is 82.7%; his low is 54.4%.)
So he’s not LeBron. Big deal. Ernie Grunfeld didn’t make Hinrich a Wizard in hopes of adding a gamechanger. He picked up Hinrich because the team needs “some veterans, some leaders, players who have been through the wars” and because they “expect him to provide a lot of leadership on our team”. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks that Hinrich is The Piece that will take the Wizards to the land of champagne bottles and championship hats.
To delve further into Win%, we can break down his career position-specific contribution to victories.
Career Win% by position
As a point guard: 46.4%
As a shooting guard: 43.6%
As a small forward: 46.3%
Career Min% (% of team’s total minutes at position)
The distribution of Hinrich’s minutes by position is indicative of his varied skill set. Interestingly, Hinrich gave the Bulls a better chance of winning at the SF position than at SG. (Obviously, the SF numbers are skewed based on Min% at that spot.) Perhaps Hinrich’s inefficiencies at SG are due to his struggles in isolation situations and shooting off screens.
Moving on to an analysis that should tickle the fancy of TrueHoop contributors and PER Heads alike: Kirk’s PER by position. Player efficiency rating (PER) was developed by ESPN’s John Hollinger and is a rating of a player’s per-minute productivity. Essentially, is it the summary of a player’s statistical accomplishment in one, simple number. The league average in PER is 15.00 every season.
PER Reference Guide
A Year For the Ages: 35.0
Runaway MVP Candidate: 30.0
Strong MVP Candidate: 27.5
Weak MVP Candidate: 25.0
Bona fide All-Star: 22.5
Borderline All-Star: 20.0
Solid 2nd option: 18.0
3rd Banana: 16.5
Pretty good player: 15.0
In the rotation: 13.0
Scrounging for minutes: 11.0
Definitely renting: 9.0
The Next Stop: DLeague: 5.0
Kirk Hinrich’s career PER by position
Kirk Hinrich’s career defensive PER by position
Kirk Hinrich’s career +/- PER by position
Based on the per-minute, pace-adjusted PER stat, Hinrich is clearly a better guard than a forward, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, he is just above average as a PG and a SG and well below average at SF. Defensively, Kirk is able to defend guards quite well, but gives up far too much to opposing SF. Overall, Kirk Hinrich is an average producer in all facets of the game as a backcourt player, but suffers when played at the 3. (On a somewhat related note: LeBron James’ career PER is 26.8.) The PER Reference Guide labels Kirk Hinrich as a player who is somewhere between a 3rd banana and a pretty good player at both guard positions.
This might explain why coaches, dating back to college, have tried to plug Hinrich in at different positions. In the world of sports, teams look for players that fit neatly into score books and can be defined by one, primary role. The NBA has plenty of players who have specialized and fine-tuned their games to contribute in one or two statistical categories. We have the 3-point specialist (Korver); the defensive specialist (Artest); the slasher/scorer (Ellis); the pass-first creator (Duhon); and the hustling, high-energy guy (Varejao). Hinrich’s generalized abilities may have done more to frustrate general managers and coaches, than they have put them at ease.
As a high school senior, Hinrich was named Co-Iowa Mr. Basketball, was drafted 7th overall in 2003, but has always had to fight to find his niche. Hinrich moved from point guard to shooting guard during his last two years at Kansas to allow Aaron Miles to lead the team. Miles finished his NCAA career ranking 8th in assists and 2nd place all-time in Kansas history in steals. In Chicago, Hinrich was primarily a point guard, but when Derrick Rose was drafted, he once again jumped to shooting guard. In Rose’s two year NBA career, he has won Rookie of the Year and was named an All Star. In seven NBA seasons, Hinrich has only been celebrated as a member of both the NBA All-Rookie First Team and the All-NBA Defensive Second Team. The managerial decision is simple enough. Let the dynamic, Players You Build Teams Around start at their best positions, and kindly ask Hinrich to try something else for the good of the franchise.
Kirk Hinrich’s career eFG%
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. More of the same here. Hinrich’s numbers are almost identical at both guard potions, but significantly lower at SF.
Kirk Hinrich’s career AST by position (48-minute adjusted)
His career assists per game by position actually offers some interesting insights about Hinrich’s game. Even as a shooting guard, Hinrich handed out a remarkable 7.2 assists per game. I challenge you to find another SG who has averaged over 7 assists per game over his career. My query at Basketball-Reference showed that Hall of Famer Jerry West came closest with 6.69 assists per game. (LeBron James has averaged 6.95.) Even as a SG, where his primary role would be scoring points, Hinrich was unselfish and was able to effectively create for his teammates. This is great news, considering Hinrich will be surrounded by Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, and JaVale McGee, who are a trio of field goal attempt enthusiasts. Hinrich’s career Assist Ratio (the percentage of his possessions that ends in an assist) is 27.93%.
Remember, Hinrich said that he feels more comfortable playing PG, but feels “very capable” playing SG. The numbers support his opinion. Hinrich is a slightly better PG than shooting guard, but the difference in productivity between the two positions is negligible. Hinrich’s (ordinary) statistics are encouraging. Yep. At this point in time, Hinrich’s role on the team is unknown, but he gives the Wizards plenty of flexibility in their offensive sets and in creating lineups, for example: Wall-Hinrich, Hinrich-Wall, Arenas-Hinrich, Hinrich-Arenas. (And while I would rather not see this: Wall-Arenas-Hinrich, Arenas-Wall-Hinrich.)
The Hinrich a Hinrich-Wall backourt gives us: The transition scorer and spot-up shooter. These are two of Hinrich’s best offensive talents and will most certainly be highlighted with John Wall collapsing defenses, forcing slides, and trying to beat the other nine players up and down the court. He is not a formidable threat as the Pick and Roll ball handler, but with Wall running the point, he won’t have to be. Hinrich will be allowed, even encouraged, to find his comfort zone in space along the perimeter take open shots.
The Hinrich a Hinrich-Arenas backourt gives us: The facilitator and the defender. This lineup highlights “The Black President” (Note: not Obama). With Arenas on center stage commanding the court, Hinrich will step into the background, letting his more gifted teammates dictate the game. Hinrich will look to create scoring opportunities for others when he has the ball – he might not touch it all that often in this set. Hinrich will be one of the last offensive options with the shot clock running down. Defensively, Hinrich will be asked to slow the opponent’s most feared backcourt scorer, be it a point guard or shooting guard.
If the Wizards are looking to put a grizzled, gritty veteran into the game at either guard position, they now have the ability to do so – and know what to expect. He won’t win the game on his own, but he certainly won’t hurt the team either. With the roster in flux and the future unknown, Hinrich’s predictable production is gladly received.
Jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than master of one.
[Photo courtesy of WashingtonWizards.com]