New York Knicks v Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich could become dangerous backcourt combination


The Bulls signed Kirk Hinrich before last season for two reasons:

1. Hinrich is starting-point guard caliber, someone who capable of filling in at the position while Derrick Rose was injured.

2. Once Rose got healthy, Hinrich could play with Rose in the backcourt.

Hinrich held up his end of the bargain for No. 1. Rose missed all of last season, and not only did Hinrich help the Bulls reach the playoffs, he helped them beat the Nets in the first round.

Now that Hinrich and Rose are playing together this season, No. 2 is a little murky.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Monday night’s games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

Anecdotally, the Bulls love the Hinrich-Rose combination. Via Nick Friedell of

“We’re making quick decisions with the group that’s out there,” Rose said of playing with Hinrich. “Especially me and Kirk, because the decision-making is unreal because the ball is moving. When you’re playing against a bunch of guys that’s really moving the ball and know the game of basketball, it’s going to be hard to guard.”

“I’m real comfortable out there with him,” Hinrich said of playing with Rose. “It gives us multiple guys [who] can play in pick-and-rolls. It’s just another dimension that we can put out there.”

“Because they can both score,” Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. “They’re both smart players. They’re both great playmakers, and they’re just fast as s—. When you think about it, you’ve got Derrick, one of the fastest guys on the planet. Kirk’s one of the fastest guys in the league. They can both handle, they can both assist, they can both score, they shoot.

“It’s two really good players playing together, so you can go pick-and-roll on one side with Derrick, and if nothing happens — but something’s usually going to happen. But if nothing happens, if they play amazing defense, you can swing it over to Kirk and do pick-and-roll with Kirk and still have great options. Plus, they can guard multiple positions. Derrick’s strong. Kirk’s like 6-5 and strong, so it’s good for our team.”

But in the 64 minutes Rose and Hinrich have played together this season, the Bulls have been much worse statistically on both ends of the court. Their offensive rating dips to 90.4, and their defensive rating jumps to 108.4. Both marks would rank last in the NBA over a full season, and the net rating (-18.0) is the worst of all Chicago’s two-man combinations that have played at least 10 minutes together.

However, in the Bulls’ win over the Pacers on Saturday, Rose and Hinrich played very well together. In the 16 minutes they shared the court, Chicago’s offensive rating was an awesome 123.8 and its defensive rating was a decent 101.1.

I’m inclined to attribute that to small sample size for now, especially considering how poorly the duo had done prior. But for all the reasons the Bulls players stated above, it seems this combination should work well. Maybe Hinrich and Rose just needed a little time to mesh.

I suspect Tom Thibodeau will give us a chance to find out. That’s been the plan all along.

Report: David Lee, Tyler Zeller in line to start for Celtics; Jared Sullinger, Jonas Jerebko out of rotation

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: David Lee of Boston Celtics attacks during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.

It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.

That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.

Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.

Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.

I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.

This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.