Despite being a relatively important early season matchup between two likely playoff teams, the prevailing storyline coming into this game is the return of C.J. Watson (and to a lesser extent, Keith Bogans). Watson was the Bulls' backup point guard for the first two years of the Thibodeau era, and despite what the majority of the Bulls fanbase and front office will tell you, he played at a very high level virtually the entire time he was here. His de facto replacement, Kirk Hinrich, is making around $8 million over the next two seasons, far outstripping both the six and a half million Watson made during his tenure with the Bulls and the $2 million he's scheduled to make over two years with the Nets.
The question, that I'm sure you've heard dozens upon dozens of times over the summer, is simple: just how much better is C.J. Watson in comparison to Hinrich? The answer, despite what you might think, is clear. C.J. Watson is better than Kirk Hinrich in nearly every conceivable measure. Going by this season alone, Watson scores more, shoots a higher percentage across the board, has a higher offensive rating and has a significant lead in PER and Win Shares. Hinrich is rebounding and dishing out assists at a higher rate, as well as playing more minutes. None of this should surprise anyone who has watched NBA basketball in the last five years. Now, to be fair, Hinrich was signed to be both a point guard while Rose is out and a shooting guard when Rose is back, which is something C.J. Watson is not exactly ideal for (ignoring the fact that Watson had astronomical numbers last season as a part-time shooting guard).
Of course, numbers are one thing. Head to head matchups are another, and while Hinrich is a game-time decision, watching him get dismantled by the man he replaced at nearly twice the price would be a cathartic experience for me, at least.
The Nets vaunted backcourt has been something of a disappointment thus far, with both players averaging under 17 points per game on under 43% shooting. That being said, they're both still a lot better than whatever backcourt the Bulls are trotting out these days. Whatever the Belinelli, Robinson, Hinrich/Teague triptych can do to keep pace with the supposed best backcourt in the NBA will greatly aid their chances at victory.
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