More than Mo Williams and Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright was the off-season signing that I was personally most excited for. A heady, veteran wing who could nail the three (he was a former participant in the three-point contest) and wanted to play in Portland sounded like the perfect fit. I did have concerns about how he would fit into the rotation, but I figured Head Coach Terry Stotts could sort it out.
While his performance has not been poor by any stretch, Wright seems to have become more of an afterthought this season. He is only earning 14.3 minutes a game from Stotts, after averaging 22.6 off the bench for the Sixers last year. As a three-point “specialist” (he’s a little more varied than just that), this worries me since shooters generally need time to get into a rhythm.
While adequate, his three-point shooting this year has dropped off, currently sitting at 34.9%. For comparison, over his previous six seasons, he has never once been below 36.0%. This could easily be contributed to a new coach and system, and I sincerely hope it is. He is also still firing off 2.9 three-point attempts per game, which may very well be enough opportunities for him to find his rhythm.
It’s impossible to criticize Stotts for Wright’s reduction in minutes, though – where would those minutes come from? In terms of directly equivalent positions, he is right behind Nicolas “Jack of All Trades” Batum, while the other perimeter players, Mo Williams, Damian Lillard, and Wesley Matthews have all been playing well in their roles this season. Before the season, I probably would have said more of Matthews’ minutes could potentially go to Wright, but as has been well-documented, Matthews is currently playing lights out.
So far this season, every Blazers starter is averaging over 30 minutes a game, with both Lillard and Aldridge averaging over 36 (which places both among the top 25 in the league). This is already far better than last season, but given the potential for an injury to throw a wrench in the entire team’s plans, I could stand to see their minutes reduced even further. This, of course, must be balanced with the fact that Stotts’ goal is to win, and he will base his decision making on what gets him wins. Reducing either Lillard or Aldrdge’s minutes and still expecting to win as much may just not be feasible.
Something that is worth considering, though, would be some sort of Batum and Wright pairing. Because they play the same position, they have not yet shared the court much this season. I would be curious to see how hypothetical scenarios involving one of them playing the two and one playing the three would turn out, or perhaps a lineup in which Batum would moonlight as a stretch four. These are drastic considerations for a team experiencing so much success, though, so making such major changes just to find more minutes for Wright is probably not the answer.
Wright knew what he was getting into coming into this season, and there is no reason to believe he is not satisfied in his role. He is quite an offensively talented player, and a hard worker on defense, so sometimes it’s just difficult for me to see him sitting on the bench for so much of the game. When it’s all said and done, too much depth is always better than too little, and before season’s end, Wright may get his time in the spotlight.