By now, you may be sick of people praising Julian Wright and campaigning for the fourth-year player out of Kansas to get more minutes. Unfortunately, you’re about to get more of it.
In 312 total minutes played over just 24 appearances, Wright has brought a style of play that hasn’t been seen in Toronto for the better part of a decade. Here’s a swing-man whose first priority is defence, who always seems to be active on the defensive end, grabbing rebounds, forcing turnovers, blocking shots, etc.
Now, he’s no threat on the offensive end, but what should keep Wright on the floor is that he also knows his limitations, and plays within himself. Julian has attempted just under three shots per game in his appearances, and because he usually waits for an efficient scoring opportunity rather than just chucking the ball from anywhere, his field goal percentage hovers around 50 (currently 49.3).
Simply put, Julian Wright plays winning basketball; defence first and efficient offence.
Wright has only played 20 minutes or more five times this season. The Raptors are 3-2 (which is a small sample, but also decent when you consider that’s a quarter of the team’s wins) in those games, with wins in Orlando and Dallas. He’s also had his fingerprints on a few other Raptors wins this season, like when his pesky defence helped spur the biggest comeback in franchise history in Detroit.
It makes sense, if you think about it. A guy who can come up with loose balls, does the little things right and forces turnovers helps a young, athletic team that wants to get out and run.
So the question becomes, why on earth does Julian Wright average just 13 minutes per game?
It’s because Bryan Colangelo has too much invested in Linas Kleiza, and Jay Triano seems to have a man-crush on Sonny Weems.
I’m aware that Kleiza has stepped his game up since being re-inserted into the starting lineup, but at the end of the day, in a one-possession ball game, I’d be willing to bet that most NBA-caliber coaches would have Wright on the floor instead of Kleiza.
As for Weems, I’m actually the one, who just two months ago, wrote that he had played his way into a role in the future of this franchise. It took less than a month for Sonny to selfishly play his way out of that role, and the unfortunate timing of his back injury didn’t help.
Weems used to play a similar brand of basketball as Wright, before he woke up one day believing he was Kobe, and turned into a chucker and a hog. He rarely plays defence anymore and has become incredibly inefficient on the offensive end. It hurts the team to have him on the floor. Not to mention, I don’t believe it is just coincidence that DeMar DeRozan has grown leaps and bounds without Weems around.
The only hope for Weems now is that he has some sort of trade-value as February approaches.
Some would argue that Weems and Kleiza should be allowed to play through struggles, because they are two of the young building blocks going forward. I have two answers for those uninformed people.
One, Sonny Weems and Linas Kleiza should not be building blocks for the future of an NBA franchise. Two, Julian Wright is actually younger than both Weems and Kleiza. Doesn’t Wright, at just 23, deserve to play through struggles (of which he has had few this season) and deserve time to develop? Realistically, the only wing player that should be ahead of Wright on the depth chart is DeRozan.
At the beginning of the season, Jay Triano stated that without any stars on this roster, every single player would have to earn his minutes and that no player is safe when they return from injury. Even if that player was a starter, he would have to work his way back onto the court after injury.
Using this method, it should be a no-brainer that Wright will see more floor time than Weems, whenever Sonny returns from injury. But then again, it should also be a no-brainer that Julian Wright deserves some solid playing time. Instead, the only players Wright plays more than, on average, are Solomon Alabi and Peja Stojakovic (who doesn’t really count, does he?). Think about that coaching decision for a minute.
The truth is that Triano has been preaching the same song and dance for two years, and yet he never seems to follow through on his word. Remember that this is a guy who has stressed improved defence prior to the last two seasons. You see, all the post-game swearing in the world can’t hide the fact that Triano looks lost managing his rotation and coaching defence.
But guess what, Triano is in a fortunate situation, where his general manager is giving him the chance to grow as a coach and his ownership is too cheap to pay off another fired coach. For someone who is getting more than his fair share of second chances, shouldn’t Triano be equally rewarding to players like Julian Wright?
If you ask me, and a lot of others who follow the Raptors, Julian Wright should not only be rewarded with more playing time, but should also be starting.
But hey, that’s just the opinion of a young blogger and some basketball fans. The guy who’s getting paid millions to make those decisions is the smart one, right?
Let’s see Jay make the Wright decision, then.