Dorell Wright, progression to the mean, and faith in a good shot

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Dorell Wright has struggled through much of the early part of his 76ers career, and as such his playing time has been somewhat sporadic. Getting the start with Jason Richardson missing Wednesdays game against the Grizzlies, Wright dropped in 28 points on 8-11 from the field, giving the 76ers a boost and showing why it would be wise to stick with Wright.

Dorell Wright, before this recent stretch of strong play that culminated in 28 points on 11 field goal attempts against the Grizzlies, had struggled throughout the early phases of his brief 76ers career. During his first 22 games of the season Wright was shooting only 32.6% from the field, averaging 6.8 points per game in just over 20 minutes per contest. He hadn't scored in double figures in over a month, he was worst on the team in overall +/-, and most surprisingly the team was putrid on the offensive end of the court when he was playing, posting a 92.8 offensive rating with him on the court compared to a 104.2 offensive rating with him on the bench.

By all objective analysis, his acquisition was an abject failure to that point.

But the minutes were scarce, with Wright having only played in 442 minutes during his first 22 games. A firm believer in sample size, and also liking the quality of the shots both Wright and the 76ers were getting, I still preferred Wright over the other options starting alongside Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

Why?

Small sample size

As stated above, 442 minutes is hardly enough to override what we had previously seen from a player over a 9 year career. Through 22 games Wright was shooting 29% from two point range, which was the main reason his efficiency was so low. Over his 9 year career Wright shot 47.4% from two point range. Either Wright became historically bad at finishing inside the arc or he was subject to some bad luck associated with small sample size. At only 27 years of age and not coming off a major injury, my money was on the latter.

Even from deep he was hitting some cold spells, particularly from the corner three, which in the past had been his bread and butter.

Better shots

Here are Liberty Ballers, we're big fans of three point attempts and free throws, with a general disdain for long range two point jump shots.

One thing that I like about Wright is that his shots, by and large, come from high percentage areas of the court, typically either from three point range or near the hoop. Last year, one of the more efficient seasons of his career, over 77% of Wright's field goal attempts came either at the rim or from three point range.

Wright's shot distribution to date this season has painted a similar picture, with over 73% of his attempts coming from those two spots. Once again, with Wright having taken similar shots as in past seasons, one would expect his effectiveness to eventually return to its career norms.

Perhaps more importantly, Wright's presence on the floor leads to better shots for the team.

Below is a table showing the percentage of the teams shots that are three point shots (% 3pta), and also the 76ers ability to get to the line (FT rate), both with and without Wright on the court.

Team FT Rate Team % 3pta
Wright On court 23.0% 25.5%
Off Court 20.5% 18.6%
Differential +2.5% +6.9%

Glossary:

Team FT Rate: fta/fga*100

Team % 3pta: 3pta/fga*100

The team has been markedly better at both aspects of the game with Wright on the floor. Again, as Wright naturally progresses back to the mean, the benefit of his style of play and skill set becomes more apparent and he will help the team win.

More diversified skill set

Compared to the alternatives, Wright has some abilities that separate himself from some of the other options on the wing, namely a little bit of ball handling and defensive length.

The ability to handle the basketball was evident when Holiday and Turner missed time over the past week plus. With Holiday out, Wright stepped in and averaged 8 rebounds and 6.5 assists against Indiana and the Lakers, his first two games with major minutes in quite some time. This aspect of Wright's game was probably undersold when he was acquired and has been the most pleasant surprise in his game so far. While certainly not a player whom you would want leading your offense, Wright's ability to make smart decisions with the ball and alleviate pressure for the other ball handlers is valuable.

His length on the defensive end also allows him to be a more versatile player for coach Collins, including some limited time as a stretch 4, where he has surprisingly held his own on the defensive end. While not a particularly strong defensive rebounder, his 15.8% career defensive rebounding percentage is significantly ahead of Nick Young (7.8%) and Jason Richardson (12.4%), and so far this year he has outpaced that by a considerable margin at 18.6%.

Good fit with Holiday and Turner's skill set

This is somewhat anecdotal, and all of Wright, Nick Young and Jason Richardson are good catch and shoot players, but I feel like Dorell Wright is better at moving without the basketball, and with his quick and high release he does more to create space for Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Particularly once (if?) Andrew Bynum plays a game, Wright becomes an even better fit, both as a stretch 4 in limited time and at his natural small forward position.

Dorell Wright so far this year has been wildly inconsistent. That being said, he has yet to play all that many minutes or attempt all that many shots. Most of his attempts are shots he has taken, and made, in the past. With the quality of looks Wright has gotten, both for himself and the team as a whole, a progression back to his career averages is to be expected, and once that happens good things will happen for the 76ers.

So far Wright has started to turn it around over the past 7 games. Wright has averaged 14.7 points per game on 45.2% from the field and 42.9% from three, giving him a 61.6% true shooting percentage to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game over that span. The team while he's been on the court has has had an offensive rating of 111.3.

With regular playing time, Dorell Wright should continue to pay dividends for the 76ers.

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