I wrote back on the 10th that Motiejunas needed to be given more playing time. Most of you, including some of my staff, disagreed with that sentiment. (Though interestingly, the responses from Twitter were in vehement agreement.) I still feel strongly about that stance, so I’ll address some of the replies.
First, let me reiterate my thesis. There are only three reasons why the status quo should ensue (ie: Motiejunas should not get burn.)
1. If you think that playing him would have a disastrous effect on the team. I’ve conceded already that Casspi is the far better fit and the numbers back that up. (Ironically, this post comes after one of Casspi’s best games of the year.) But what I’m talking about here is if you think playing Motiejunas would see Asik-Howard levels of detriment, to the point where the team loses multiple games because of his court time.
2. If you think, or think the coaches have concluded, that Motiejunas just straight up sucks and will never get it. Justin Wehr has presented this case nicely, though I do not agree. While I don’t agree, it’s a valid line of argumentation. More on this later.
3. If you think “every game matters.” This is probably the weakest point of my own argument as the Chris Paul injury changes everything. I don’t think the Rockets are one of the four best teams in the conference. But with Paul out for an extended period, the Rockets have an outside chance at the 4-seed.
To some of the responses:
John Eby and Stephen feel that Motiejunas is too weak defensively to warrant time. In repsonse, I would point to reason #1. I think the team would suffer, but in my opinion, the outcome wouldn’t be disastrous.
Justin Wehr, as I cited earlier, is of the opinion that D-Mo just isn’t worth the time. If that truly is the case, then that’s obviously a reason to sit him. I obviously don’t think that’s the case, given his tantalizing skillset, but moreover, I just don’t think we can reach that conclusion so quickly. I point to Luis Scola’s rookie season as evidence. Remember how horrible Scola looked the first half of the year? D-Mo hasn’t even seen as many minutes yet as Scola had up to that point. The adjustment to the NBA game from the international courts is one that only takes place through consistent playing time.
A new reader, detheredge, a reader, Jatman20, and Robert Dover present the argument that the team is no longer in a developmental phase and in contention for one of the top seeds. Dover also, in attacking my argument, cites my feature from ESPN some months back in which I myself said, in essence, that only basketball/wins mattered. It’s a compelling argument by Dover and co., but I’d say two things:
1. As I’ve already said, I don’t think this team is a top four seed. They’ve been trudging along and lost to a Hawks team missing Al Horford.
2. My premise in the ESPN piece was geared more towards eschewing “asset arbitrage”, not player development. To put it simply, I don’t think the focus anymore is on cap space or trades. But I do think long term player development is still an important and viable goal, most especially with respect to a player as promising as Motiejunas.
I just feel that when you have a prospect as talented as Motiejunas, especially when you don’t expect to have high picks for the near future, you have to make some investments towards realizing his development. He could, in theory, be an almost ideal fit for this offense with his ability to not only spread the floor but actually post up. He’s been terrible, yes, but that’s a really, really rare skillset the man possesses. You just have to see that through and let him sink or swim.
Perhaps more importantly, you have him potentially under cheap club control for another three years after this one, but with the team option decision coming in 2015-2016. Let’s say he sits all of this year, as he has. That means his “growing pains year” becomes next year, after which you have to make your decision. You only then have him on the cheap for another year. I’d prefer to get the growing pains out as early as possible while someone is on their rookie scale.