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Whether it is at the games or on message boards or even on the radio, I hear people asking “Why doesn’t he get more playing time?” — and typically that player is either Josh Selby or Tony Wroten.

I understand why people would want to see those two young guys on the floor more often. To say that Selby lit up Summer League would be an understatement of epic proportions. He averaged 24.2 ppg with a shooting line of .557/.643!!!/.889. That’s not a typo. He hit over 64% of his 3-point attempts, averaging 5.4 made threes per game. That’s incredible. Wroten played pretty well during Summer League, too. He showed a lot of promise and displayed some amazing athleticism.

So, it is easy to see why people would want to see more of these two young players. They are loaded with that ever-enticing word: Potential.

However…this is not the Memphis Grizzlies of 3 years ago. This is not a team that is trying to figure out how to make it out of the basement and back into the playoff picture. Instead, this is a team that is has been to the playoffs the last two years and is expected to be there again this spring. In fact, they now sit in the #4 spot in the Western Conference (the same spot they ultimately finished last year after losing a tiebreaker to the Lakers for the #3 spot) behind the Thunder, Clippers, and Spurs. In other words, they are now the hunted, instead of the hunters.

With that newfound role comes new pressures — for the players, the coaching staff, and the front office. The coaches have to put the best players out on the floor each and every night that they can. Sometimes, that means making changes on the fly. That’s why a guy like Wayne Ellington might play 26 minutes in Sacramento (scoring 26 points in his second huge game of the year) and then play only 5 scoreless minutes against the Warriors in the next contest.

That also means that they have to determine who is ready to play important minutes among the reserves. In the case of Selby and Wroten, they have obviously decided that they aren’t quite there yet. That’s why Wroten is on his third stint back in Reno with the D-League. It’s why Selby has played a total of 46 minutes this year, mostly in mop-up time. The staff simply doesn’t feel comfortable putting them out there instead of Jerryd Bayless or Wayne Ellington.

Young players typically do not get playing time on contending teams. If either Selby or Wroten were truly ready, then they would be getting more playing time. Hollins isn’t going to shoot himself in the foot and jeopardize wins by not playing guys who deserve it. And even though players get better by actual game experience, coaches aren’t going to let them do that at the expense of winning games.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, let’s look at those teams we’re currently looking up at in the standings. Y’all want to be better, like OKC, right? The Thunder’s young players are Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, and DeAndre Liggins. They’ve all appeared in about 13 games each this season (out of 36) and average around 5-7 minutes per game when they do play.

Lamb (#12 pick in 2012) – 14 games, 4.8 mpg
Jones (#28 pick in 2012) – 12 games, 6.7 mpg
Liggins (#53 pick in 2011) – 30 games, 5.8 mpg

For comparison’s sake, here are the Grizzlies’ young guys’ stats:

Wroten (#25 pick in 2012) – 6 games, 2.3 mpg
Selby (#49 pick in 2011) – 36 games, 7.8 mpg

The Clippers only have one young player on their roster:

Trey Thompkins (#37 pick in 2011) – 24 games, 5.0 mpg.

The Spurs have 2 young players on their roster in Cory Joseph and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was acquired from the Pacers in the George Hill trade and became the starter after Manu Ginobili’s hand injury in early January during last year’s lockout-shortened season.

Kawhi Leonard (#15 pick in 2011) – 85 games, 25.0 mpg
Cory Joseph (#29 pick in 2011) – 38 games, 8.6 mpg

So, with the exception of Leonard in San Antonio (a top 15 draft pick), none of these guys are getting serious playing time. The two guys picked near the same place as Wroten (Jones and Joseph) haven’t played significant time at all, and have spent plenty of time in the D-League (26 games in 2 years for Joseph, 11 games this year for Jones). The two second round picks have played fewer games and minutes than Selby over the past two years. These things aren’t my opinion — they are verifiable facts.

Championship-level teams, which many people consider this Grizzlies team to be, rarely look to 1st and 2nd-year players for contributions unless they are thin at a position — which the Grizzlies aren’t at either guard spot — or suffer injuries. From where I sit, the Grizzlies simply aren’t in a position to give these two young players enough playing time to warrant them being part of the regular rotation. That’s not a knock on either of them so much as the fact that there are currently better players ahead of them on the depth chart. And as far as I’m concerned — that’s a good thing.

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5 Responses to Perspective on Playing Time

  1. Steve DickinsonNo Gravatar says:

    Who the heck is bugging you about these two getting more playing time? Even with Pondexter’s injury leading to more time being available at the 2/3, there just isn’t enough minutes once Bayless and Ellington have taken them.

    Also, Hollins is a very heavy user of his best players (a coach’s best attribute).

    • kasdNo Gravatar says:

      I Disagree. The more important question is what Selby or Wroten (both of whom I believe have larger potential then Ellington and Bayless) could do if given the same amount of consistent minutes. Ellington 5ppg/1apg/1rpg and Bayless 5ppg/3apg/2rpg aren’t exactly lighting it up. I believe Selby and Wroten can put up very similar numbers (I suspect even better).
      Also, comparing our bench to that of the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers is in this case is useless. We do not have a Bledsoe, Martin, Crawford, Green, S. Jackson etc. coming off our bench! Our GUARD play off the bench stinks! That is why our starters have to log so many minutes. The only valuable subs we have are Mo, Arthur, Qpon….that’s it! And we happen to have two talented young guards that are not playing AT ALL on an offense that is finding it really hard to score. So why not give them a shot?

      • btNo Gravatar says:

        I think Lee is right here.

        Selby is definitely an interesting talent and future potential volume scorer, a guy Bill Simmons would call an Irrational Confidence Guy…that guy (a la Jamal Crawford or previously a Shannon Brown in LA) who out of no where can show up and score 20+ points and ignite team… Selby can be that guy and maybe more once he’s matured, but right now the with the Grizz style/ strategy/ pace – Selby would likely do more harm than good. He needs the ball in his hands, pounding it, waiting for an opportunity to make a move or come off a ball screen. While the Grizz would love another creator on the perimeter, at this point with our current lineup we can’t handle another guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective.

        Much is the same story for Wroten. He has flashes of brilliance where you look and say, ‘Wow he could be special” – but we know Hollins style here. He is hyper-critical of his PGs/ guards, so I can’t foresee Wroten getting a ton of PT with the current roster and our playoff standing… Sure it would be beneficial to have more minutes under his belt, but Hollin’s theory is most likely that playing against Mike, TA, & Bayless in practice is moving him along.

  2. Chris FaulknerNo Gravatar says:

    They will get their chances. Eventually one of our guards will miss some games and they’ll be thrown into the fire for 10-15 minutes.

  3. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    Good article, it’s a great perspective to see the MPG for the youngs guns on the top teams we often like to see ourselves with. One probalem that will plague Shelby for his whole career is his defensive liability. He’s too small to defend the 2 and doesn’t have the skill to play the 1 offensively. Personally I think he’s bad fit for this defensive minded team and he’d more likely yo offer some good trade bait for teams that are enamoured with his summer league game. Wrooten is a different story. He’s so raw that even on a bad team he’d struggle in a big way. He’s playing the toughest position in the league and for all his atheleticism he couldn’t make his freethrows if his life depended on it. His game needs a lot of development, the D-League is a perfect place for him. Year 3 is when I expect to see him get some meaningful minutes, no sooner.

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