Steinmetz: Is Nelson wrong on Wright?

Warriors coach Don Nelson said recently he’s going to play youngsters Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli alot more next season than he did this past one.

Wright and Belinelli, respectively the No. 8 and No. 18 picks in last year’s NBA draft, had disappointing and incomplete first seasons for the Warriors, as both lingered at the end of the bench on most game nights.

Even as the Warriors headed toward an exciting 48-win season there was an undertone of discontent among fans. They wanted to know why Nelson was reluctant to use Wright and Belinelli, even for just a few consistent minutes per game.

Wright, in particular, was a huge topic of discussion. And the conversation often started something like this: “How can Wright NOT be getting playing time on a team that so desperately needs help up front?”

It’s a legitimate question, and one Warriors fans might just get the answer to.

Nelson always has had a reputation for being hard on rookies. The argument goes that he not only doesn’t play rookies, he doesn’t develop them, either.

It is a fair but exaggerated criticism. Good first-year players get on the court for Nelson, whether it be Sidney Moncrief, Tim Hardaway or Chris Webber.

Which brings us back to Wright. Over the course of last season, there were a few junctures when Warriors coaches had indicated they were going to get Wright some consistent playing time even if it meant shoe-horning him in there at other players’ expense.

But it never happened; Wright never became part of the rotation. Wright showed flashes here and there, but for the most part, we don’t know any more about him now than we did when the Warriors drafted him.

Most fans pin the blame squarely on Nelson when it comes to not playing Wright — or Belinelli, for that matter.

Not me. Until proven otherwise, Nellie should get the benefit of the doubt.

I’m more concerned with why Wright didn’t play. The fact is that if Nelson thought Wright could help the Warriors, he would have played him — first-year player or not.

For goodness sakes, the Warriors were down to a seven-man rotation by April, and Nelson still had no use for Wright.

The Warriors were outrebounded most nights. They were constantly done in by athletic front lines. They didn’t get a lot of second shots. And yet Wright still couldn’t get on the court.

That doesn’t make me mad at Nelson, it makes me worried about Wright.

Wright needs to get stronger, and he will.

He also needs to get tougher and trade in some of his finesse for physicality.

As for his game, can he be effective in the low post?

Can he defend small forwards on the perimeter?

Can he run the floor consistently?

We have no idea because Wright didn’t play this past season.

In 2008-09, we may find out why.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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