After signing as a free agent with the Portland Trail Blazers last off-season, Dorell Wright appeared in 68 games, averaging 14.5 minutes per appearance. I was quite excited with the signing – Wright was a capable veteran who could hit the three, could play spot minutes at the four, and was the only Blazer with a championship ring (2006 with Miami).
Now that the dust has settled, we can try to piece together the story of Wright’s season. It was certainly a season of ups and downs – Wright did not appear in 13 games and earned less than 10 minutes in a further 11 games, but also hit several timely threes and reached double digits in scoring nine times.
On the whole, I personally have a sense of disappointment surrounding Wright’s inaugural campaign in Portland. This is not to say that I am disappointed in Wright – rather, I feel like the coaching staff did not use him to his fullest potential. The fact that I keep circling back to, which is hard to wrap my mind around, is that in the 2010-2011 season, Wright led the league in made three-pointers (194).
He did this while shooting 37.6% from deep, and also chipped in 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. While no one will mistake these for superstar numbers, Wright was only two seasons removed from this production when he came to Portland. I knew that there wasn’t space for Wright to earn a ton of minutes, but I found the 14.5 he ended up averaging to be too low.
It was apparent that Wright was brought on as a three-point specialist. His actual usage supported this fact, as 202 of his 297 shot attempts this season were from beyond the arc. The problem is that Wright’s three-point shooting percentage dipped rather severely, down to 34.2%, more than a three percentage point drop compared to the previous season.
This precipitous drop is likely why Wright saw his playing time vacillate so drastically under Head Coach Terry Stotts. If Wright couldn’t do what he was brought on to do, then his minutes started shrinking. However; being a three-point specialist is awfully hard when you don’t have enough minutes to get into a rhythm. This could be broadened to say that offensive skills in general are hard to jump into right away when coming off the bench, as opposed to a player who specializes in defense or rebounding (which are largely predicated more on effort).
This was the chicken or the egg scenario that I saw developing last season – Wright was out of sorts because he didn’t have enough time to get into a rhythm, and when his rhythm suffered, his minutes shrank, merely exacerbating the problem. I also suspect that because Wright knew he wouldn’t get as many minutes, he tried to force himself into making an impact by launching shots more frequently, with some of them being more ill-advised than in past seasons.
For a bench unit that was starved for scoring, it sure seems like Wright could have been a huge help in that department. It is a shame that his skill-set could not have been tapped into more effectively, which is something I hope can be resolved next season.
Much of this likely depends on Mo Williams’ forthcoming decision on whether or not to return to the Blazers (he is scheduled to meet with the Mavericks today). If he does indeed come back, he will likely resume his role as the bench’s primary scoring spark, jeopardizing Wright’s potential to contribute in a greater manner. If Williams does not come back, it is more likely that Wright will assume the mantle of being the veteran presence off the bench, as well as having to provide a bigger scoring punch himself.
When it’s all said and done, I hope to see Wright be able to contribute more next season. He certainly has the ability and skill set to do so, but without the proper playing time, it will be hard to accomplish. It is just one of the many puzzles that Stotts will have to sort out when figuring out how to eke out an acceptable amount of production from the Blazers’ bench next season.