Inside the Sixers: Dorell Wright showing he can help 76ers

Dorell Wright can guard the perimeter, hit threes, and take over ballhandling if necessary.
Dorell Wright can guard the perimeter, hit threes, and take over ballhandling if necessary. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 07, 2013

The 76ers are 35 games into the regular season, a long enough time - at least as far as this season is concerned - for coach Doug Collins to figure out what guys can and cannot do on this team.

The only thing that will change drastically at this point will be if they get the opportunity to trot out center Andrew Bynum. Until that time comes, they are a team that will continue to play from the outside in, relying entirely too much on their perimeter game. And while they are not as good as they were last season defensively, they still play hard enough at that end to remain among the top 10 teams in the league.

If there is one player who is consistently in the rotation who has shown signs that he can add to the Sixers in the second half of the season, it is Dorell Wright.

Remember when the Sixers said they wanted to become longer defensively, more athletic, and more versatile? Wright, a reserve, has shown signs of being able to do just that and is starting to look more comfortable in his first year with the Sixers.

Heading into the Sixers' wicked back-to-back at Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Wright's game was trending upward. In the nine games before the Oklahoma City game, Wright averaged 13.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting. He stretched defenses as well, connecting on 42.9 percent of his threes.

Earlier this season, though, Wright, in the final year of his contract, looked as if he would be a gigantic bust. Playing sporadically and sometimes not at all through the first 17 games, Wright couldn't score (4.4 points per game) or shoot (31.1 percent).

But think back to the premise of being longer and better defensively, and Wright's value to the Sixers becomes more obvious.

One of the worst developments this season is the Sixers' inability to defend the perimeter. As of Friday, the Sixers had allowed 10 made three-pointers seven times this season. By comparison, last season they allowed that many just five times.

How much better would the perimeter defense be with Wright, 6-foot-9 and long, out there more as opposed to Jason Richardson, who is three inches shorter, four years older (31), and has never been more than an average defender during his 11 seasons?

Wright has demonstrated that he can guard three different positions, a luxury that the Sixers don't have with Richardson and something that all teams cherish. Wright is also a better rebounder than Richardson despite playing about six fewer minutes per game.

The one element of Wright's game that Collins admits he wasn't aware of is his ballhandling ability.

We all know that Collins began the season wanting the ball in Jrue Holiday's hands as much as possible. As the season has played out, however, Collins now says that he wants the pressure not solely on Holiday, and that he has no problem with Wright being on the ball in certain situations.

This is not a suggestion that Collins should make a switch in his starting lineup just yet, inserting Wright for Richardson. But eventually it will be worth considering.

Richardson has been a starter for his entire career. But he is approaching the point where taking a step back becomes inevitable. Richardson has had some injuries. He began the season with a sprained ankle, and more recently he's been bothered by a strained lower back.

It is reasonable to consider whether Richardson would be better suited to coming off the bench and being a pure offensive threat.

And if the longer, younger, and more athletic Wright continues to improve, the question will inevitably come up in the second half of the season.

Contact John N. Mitchell at Follow on Twitter @jmitchinquirer.

comments powered by Disqus