Why Hinrich is the key for Atlanta

Capt. Kirk is the key
(image from NBA.com)
Victorious Jayhawk
(image from Photobucket.com)

Kirk Hinrich isn’t exactly the first name that’ll come to mind when one talks of the Atlanta Hawks. Not when you have Josh Smith, Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and, lately, Zaza Pachulia. But the former Kansas Jayhawk makes a big difference, maybe even the biggest.

Kirk = D
(image by J. Meric of Getty Images)
His numbers belie his importance to Larry Drew’s strategy. In the past 3 games against the Magic, Al Horford has led the team with 1 block per game, while Josh Smith has the most steals and defensive boards, but Hinrich has arguably one of the strongest impacts on defense, at least on the backcourt.

In Game 1, Jameer Nelson shot just 4-10 against Hinrich, as opposed to his 6-8 against other defenders. And Kirk was on him for nearly 28 minutes. That might not look much in terms of the big picture, Nelson did finish with 27 points, but it definitely helps when a team has someone who can severely limit one of the opposing squad’s top scorers.

Kirk needs to shoot
(image by J. Meric of Getty Images)
But for Atlanta to ultimately leapfrog Orland and for them to even hope of advancing deep into the playoffs, Captain Kirk will have to up it on the offensive end as well (Hinrich is statistically better in the playoffs compared to the regular season). That’s easier said than done since Atlanta’s top two point-getters make their living in the backcourt. Kirk has shot relatively well from the field, but ‘relatively well’ just won’t cut it in April and through May. His 3-point % is at a respectable 36%, but that’s well below his career playoff clip of 41%, and this career 81% free-throw shooter has shot exactly ZERO freebies so far. ZERO attempts. That could mean he hasn’t driven to the hole as strongly as he could or should. Of course, that could also mean Crawford and Johnson are ball hogs, which isn’t really the case.

Former teammates could meet deep in the postseason
(image by Jonathan Daniel of Getty Images)

In a series where everyone is focused on Superman and his wanting of super friends, as well as the endgame heroics of Jamal Crawford, it’ll take one under-the-radar guy to spell the difference. For Atlanta, that guy is no other than Kirk Hinrich. Yes, he didn’t create as much trade noise as his counterparts from Orlando (the now-suspended J-Rich, and the hero-to-zero Agent… er… One?), but this Jayhawk has the potential take the Hawks over the hump.
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