In the second season of his second stint in Chicago, Kirk Hinrich once again has been asked to take on starting point guard duties. Derrick Rose's torn meniscus thrust Hinrich back into the starting role, where he averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 assists in 60 starts for the Bulls a year ago. Injuries aside, Hinrich has been a reliable asset for Tom Thibodeau, last year allowing Nate Robinson to remain with a second unit deprived of scoring and, in 2013, keeping sophomore Marquis Teague on the bench as he continues to develop in Year 2.
In seven starts post-Rose injury, Hinrich has been better than he was off the bench. He's averaged 10.4 points and 6.0 assists in nearly 37 minutes since entering the starting lineup, up from 7.9 points and 4.6 assists in 27 minutes behind Rose.
His shooting numbers have been poor since arriving in Chicago -- a career 42.7 percent shooter before signing with the Bulls in 2012, Hinrich has shot just 37.7 percent in one-plus years -- but Hinrich has been an apt passer surrounded by scorers in Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
Of the 25 players averaging at least five assists per game, Hinrich is 10th in passes per game (60.6), per SportVU data on NBA.com. All nine players ahead of him average two or more minutes per game than Hinrich, meaning the Bulls' point guard is on pace with the league's best in distributing in his time on the court. The data doesn't allow for splits on just games Hinrich has started, but these numbers should only increase as he continues to start in place of Rose.
And it's more than just the numbers in the basic box score.
Hinrich has led the charge in facilitating the Bulls offense.
His assist rate of 26.5 percent -- meaning Hinrich has assisted on 26.5 percent of the Bulls' made field goals with him on the court -- leads the team, slightly better than Rose's mark of 25.6 percent before his injury. That mark ranks just outside the top-20 in the NBA, and again should only increase as he continues to lead the Bulls' first unit (as a starter last season, Hinrich's assist rate was 27.5 percent).
Yet Hinrich's most impressive statistic comes courtesy of SportVU data. The stat-tracking system has compiled numbers for "secondary assists," those passes that set up an assist for a made basket (think hockey assists). And in that department, Hinrich's 1.8 secondary assists are third in the NBA. Here are the top five -- Steph Curry and Michael Carter-Williams also are tied for fifth.
|1.||John Wall (WAS)||2.2|
|2.||Chris Paul (LAC)||2.1|
|3.||Kirk Hinrich (CHI)||1.8|
|4.||Tony Parker (SAS)||1.7|
|5.||Ricky Rubio (MIN)||1.7|
Hinrich's 5.2 assists have led to Bulls points, but he's also setting up passers to find open shooters who have knocked down shots. Part of that is Tom Thibodeau's offensive system; part of it is also Hinrich being a heady player who sees plays develop.
Hinrich's shot attempts per game have increased this season, though part of that has come due to the absence of Jimmy Butler in the lineup. When Butler returns from his turf-toe injury, the Kansas alum's shot attempts should decrease while his impressive passing marks continue.
Hinrich has always been known as a combo guard, as his career 3-point numbers would suggest (1.4 makes per game; 38 percent from beyond the arc). His importance to this Bulls team, however, for the second straight year, will be as a distributor. It's all in the numbers.