I'll start with the obligatory disclaimer on any post of this type: Willie Green is, by all accounts, a great guy. With that out of the way, after the jump we'll discuss whether this year will be the year he's finally buried on the end of the bench.
Doug Collins has a chance to do something none of his recent predecessors had the nerve to do, bench Willie Green. The irony here is that Willie is coming off the best season of his career, statistically. He was bad last year, but not nearly as bad as he'd been in some of his worst seasons. Honestly, this isn't a post about how bad Willie is. That's well documented. This post is more about what he is, where he is in his career and where this team is right now.
Consider this: The Sixers have 96 minutes per game on the wing (at the 2 and 3). To play those minutes, they have the following players:
- Andre Iguodala
- Evan Turner
- Lou Williams
- Thad Young
- Jodie Meeks
- Andres Nocioni
- Willie Green
- Jason Kapono
Iguodala and Turner will probably combine for somewhere around 70 of those minutes, possibly less if Turner spends some time at the point and/or Iguodala spends some time at the four, so let's call it 65. Lou is probably going to take up at least 10-15, when you factor in the time he'll spend at the point. Best-case scenario, that leaves maybe 20 minutes to split among the rest of the players at the two position, and honestly, most of those remaining minutes are going to be available at SF and they're going to go to Thad or Nocioni, who's apparently been promised 20 minutes/game.
We're really talking about scraping the bottom of the barrel for the remaining minutes at the two, and I believe they simply have to go with Jodie Meeks. The Sixers made a trade to get Meeks and he's going to be a free agent next summer, they need to take a look at him. Never mind that it isn't a stretch to think Meeks will pass Willie this season as a basketball player, it just doesn't make sense to give those minutes to Willie. Unless something horrific happens, this will be his last season in a Sixers' uniform. I can't think of too many situations where he'd really be needed, Lou Williams will be the spark off the bench guard, if shooting is needed, you go with Kapono without thinking twice. If you need defense, you don't go to the bench at all.
Ultimately, this decision (and many others) will come down to Doug Collins ultimate goals. None of Jason Kapono, Willie Green and Andres Nocioni are part of this team's long term plan, or at least they shouldn't be. All three of those guys, however, could be in a position to take minutes away from young players, players who need to be either (a) developed or (b) properly evaluated, sooner rather than later. I guess the question becomes, will Collins look to get these "veterans" on the floor for extended minutes to squeeze out a couple more wins, or will he go with youth, with a larger eye toward the future than a run at the playoffs.
There's a happy medium in there somewhere, depending on the player. Kapono's long range shooting will definitely be needed from time to time. Nocioni is signed for another season and if he doesn't get his minutes he'll whine to the press and possibly disrupt the locker room. Willie, on the other hand, well there's really no point to making him a regular part of the rotation. By this time, everyone should know exactly what he is, everyone should realize that his level of production can be replaced VERY easily, probably by guys on the roster, and he's a class act.
What do you guys think? Is this finally the year that Willie doesn't crack the 1,000 minute mark?