Lost in the noise surrounding Josh Smith in Atlanta lately is another intriguing trade chip the Hawks possess. They were without 31-year-old combo guard Kirk Hinrich for a month to start the season as he recovered from surgery on his left shoulder, and found suitable replacements on their bench. Jannero Pargo continues to see minutes as the backup point guard, while Willie Green has served as the backup shooting guard. Hinrich has started in the absense of Joe Johnson lately, but with the emergence of others, Hinrich's minutes are at a career-low 20.2 per game. He's shooting only 35.6% from the floor, also a career low, perhaps because of a lack of rhythm from playing time, but aside from the effect that's having on his point production, his most of his numbers per 36 minutes are consistent with what they have been the past several seasons. The Hawks don't appear to need him, but teams with holes at either guard position may.
Yesterday, we passed along a report from Ken Berger of CBS Sports who said rival executives believe Hinrich will be traded before the deadline. Recently, we've heard rumors linking him to the Clippers, who could use a shooting guard, and the Lakers, who are looking for a point guard. His contract, which pays him $8.1MM this year, is expiring, making him even more enticing for teams wanting to clear cap space. The Lakers reportedly want the Hawks to take on salary in a Hinrich deal, and that has a chilling effect for Atlanta, which teeters on the brink of being a tax-paying team.
So, a trade with the Clippers could be easier. A swap of Hinrich for Eric Bledsoe and Ryan Gomes would work under the cap, according to ESPN's Trade Machine. The Hawks could develop Bledsoe along with incumbent starter Jeff Teague and see which young point guard emerges as the best option going forward. Gomes may seem unappetizing this year, but he does provide depth at the wing positions for next season, when Green and Tracy McGrady come off the books. The trick would be convincing the Clippers that Hinrich is still a starting-caliber guard. He started 51 games combined for the Wizards and Hawks last year and 53 for the Bulls in 2009/10, but hasn't been a full-time starter since 2007/08. Hawks GM Rick Sund could point to last season's stint with the Wizards, when Hinrich shot 45.2% in 48 games for Washington, which would have been a career high had it been a full season total.
While the Clippers could bite, I think it's more likely Hinrich winds up with a team that hasn't been mentioned as a backup if he is to leave Atlanta. It's hard to see either the Clippers or the Lakers, two teams with aspirations of deep playoff runs, taking a gamble that Hinrich can return to his form of several seasons ago. He's only been past the first round of the playoffs once, too, so that hurts his case as well. Still, his versatility is likely to prompt several teams to make offers before the deadline is here.