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Unexpected Plan In Backcourt For Hicag?

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Since the Bulls made Memphis point guard Derrick Rose the first pick in the 2008 draft a week and a half ago, there has been more than a bit of theorizing from observers across the Association that the end of Kirk Hinrich's days in Chicago are near.

Hinrich is on the books for an onerous $36.5 million between now and 2012.  He's also a point guard but no longer the franchise point guard.  Thus, shipping him rather than paying quite a chunk of change to a back-up seems logical enough.

But the actual plan may in fact be a third option.

As ESPN's Marc Stein reported in yesterday's Daily Dime, there is at least some sentiment that has arisen in the Chicago organization in favor of moving restricted free agent shooting guard Ben Gordon in a sign-and-trade while sliding Hinrich into the starting shooting guard's role.

The first part has sounded excellent for some time, but I'm unsure of how much sense it makes if the latter is part of the equation. 

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Independent of the Hinrich situation, the contention here has for some time been that this team would be best served in the long run by getting rid of Gordon as he is likely to be more valuable as a trading piece than as a player in Chicago. 

To his credit, Gordon is an able scorer and an excellent three-point shooter -- he has never shot below 40 percent from beyond the arc.  But virtually everything else about his game seems to be to his discredit.  He is undersized as a 6-foot-3 off-guard, and as a result he contributes very little on the glass and has a lot of trouble defensively.  Gordon is a poor defender and not a great passer, and he doesn't necessarily handle the ball all that well, particularly for someone who entered the league with the combo guard label attached.  Further, for as good a three-point shooter as he is, his true shooting was only 55.8 percent this past season (and 54.8 for his career), which ranked him 22nd among qualified shooting guards.  Gordon only gets to the line four times per game, which ranked him in the middle of the pack (14th) among two-guards last season as well.

Undoubtedly, the former UConn guard's scoring has been important to a Chicago team that has been largely strapped in that department in recent years.  But since he is a restricted free agent, the Bulls are likely going to need to give Gordon a hefty long-term deal in order to keep him around, and given the flaws in his game and the fact that he is a capable scorer rather than a great one, it may be wiser for the Bulls to move Gordon while they can get something for him and then search for a replacement scorer later on.

The problem is that this line of theorizing seemed to make considerably more sense when the Bulls didn't have a $36 million point guard in no man's land.  Hinrich was a good point who as recently as a year ago seemed well on his way to jumping a class in the NBA's floor general strata.  In 2006-07, he set career highs in scoring (16.6 points per game), field-goal shooting (44.8 percent), three-point shooting (41.5 percent) and foul shooting (83.5 percent) while still putting up a solid 6.3 assists per game, hitting clutch shots and leading the Bulls to the second round of the playoffs.  The following season, the scoring and shooting figures all dropped precipitously, to the tune of 11.5 points per game, 41.4 percent field-goal shooting and 35.0 percent free-throw shooting. 

The Bulls had a season full of tumult, and Hinrich was far from the lone culprit, so there remains some belief around the league that he has the capability to regain the level of play he showed two seasons ago and become a very solid point guard in this league again. This gives him some value despite the high price tag.  The problem is that with Rose in town, starting at the point won't be an option for Hinrich. 

While the Bulls used him at shooting guard in tandem with utility point guard Chris Duhon at times in the past, having Hinrich at the two seems like a questionable solution in its own right.  Though he is a better defender than Gordon, he isn't a great defender, and at 6-foot-3 as well, he shares the same problem with regard to being undersized.  He is clearly an inferior shooter to Gordon and isn't exactly a fixture at the free-throw line either.

Hinrich is no doubt not the scoring presence Gordon is, and the rest of his game likely isn't enough of an improvement over Gordon's in order to make him the right man to have the spot at the two.  Hinrich might be the better overall player in the long term, but without the right position available for him, he instead becomes either an overpaid back-up or an overpaid guy playing out of position.  Both of those possibilities make moving him seem to be the best option.

Ben Gordon still doesn't thrill me as a long-term part of the plan in Chicago, and it might even be ideal for the Bulls to continue the roster make-over they began at last year's trade deadline by ridding themselves of both Gordon and Hinrich.  But under the present circumstances in the Windy City, perhaps Hinrich may just be the better man to move if the right deal comes along.

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