Julian Wright enters the Starting Five

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Published: September 30, 2009

George Shinn threw down the gauntlet over the summer, mandating that Byron Scott use his youngsters and get some internal development.  Scott, it appears, has taken up the challenge, telling everyone who would listen, including Julian, that Wright has the inside track as a starting small forward this season.  Peja, it appears, will come off the bench.

I’m torn.

No, I’m not terribly upset at Peja losing his starting role.  He needs less playing time to keep his back fresh, because when his back isn’t hurting, he does have a big impact.  I’m also still not convinced we won’t see Peja starting as the shooting guard at some point this season.  The wing positions are largely fungible in the Princeton offense, and Peja typically lined up in in the spot normally designated for shooting guards anyways.

What I’m torn about is spacing.  Julian Wright doesn’t provide any. 

In the half-court game, spacing is vital, and the Hornets are, without any question, a half court team.  When stat geeks evaluate Tyson Chandler, they are always somewhat astonished that so offensively inept a player actually improved the Hornets offensive output when he was on the floor.  How is that possible?  Spacing.  Tyson dove to the basket on every set, and his ability to finish alley-oops forced the opposing center to follow, clearing the middle of the floor.  With West hovering near the three point line at the elbow extended and Peja and Butler filling the corners, opposing teams were forced to stay out on the perimeter, leaving Paul multiple open avenues to the basket.

Julian doesn’t command that respect.  I watched a Spurs game from last season a week ago, and Michael Finley and Roger Mason, who were assigned to Julian, were usually closer to David West or Chris Paul than they were to Julian Wright.  Why would they guard him on the perimeter?  Julian Wright shot 9.5% from three last season.  That’s right.  9.5%.  2 of 21.  Those avenues are not going to be as open with Wright on the floor.

Now, Wright does have advantages.  He’s a very good rebounder for his position. His man to man defense is spectacular.  He can fill a wing on a Paul fast break better than anyone on the Hornets not named Darren Collison.  He actually generates fast breaks with his quick  hands on defense.  He’s also only 22, so he can develop – and maybe figure out that taking a set catch and shoot three like he did when he was a rookie and shot 10-24 from three is the way to go.

In the end, I think I like having Wright in the starting five.  It will help the defense and generate some easy fast break buckets.  I’m  just leery of adding Wright to an offense that already look tortured at times last season.  We could end up seeing shades of Desmond Mason playing for the Hornets in Oklahoma City, where he killed spacing like no other.

What do you think?

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