Should Justin Wesley Play More?

Jamie Squire

Kansas has had a bit of a problem with the backup big man situation. Is Justin Wesley the answer?

Last season Justin Wesley was the other transfer coming off the bench along with Kevin Young, and he was mostly used as 5 fouls in human form. Lost in all that, however, is that Wesley did a good job of playing post defense and, to put it politely, getting out of the way on offense.

This season he's been hampered by injuries, and the Jayhawks have been forced to feature Freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor instead. Each player offers a different set of strengths and weaknesses: Ellis is already one of the more heady players on the team, but lacks the burst and strength to do much with the ball inside (he's shooting just 44% at the rim), whereas Traylor is a mini Thomas Robinson in terms of his body and physical tools, but he's very raw and the basketball IQ isn't quite there yet.

One thing they have in common, though, is their level of play in 2013: terrible. They've gone about it in different ways, but each has struggled to the point where it's time to think about giving one or both some extended minutes on the bench. But which one? And should Wesley play? To help answer these questions, let's use our old friend the blind comparison:

Usage Rate eFG Oreb/Dreb Assist/TO Blk%
20.9 43.8% 12.3%/15.5% 7.6%/10.6% 3.1%
17.1% 43.8% 10.6%/15.6% 5.3%/27.9% 7.7%
9.3% 56.7% 9.8%/10.9% .5%/21.5% 4.5%

If you have been reading along, you can probably tell that player A is Perry Ellis, B is Jamari Traylor and C is what Justin Wesley did last season.

Based on this table, there really is no good answer. Ellis has the highest ceiling, as he does a really good job of getting to the rim and can also hit a two point jumper (41%), but as previously mentioned he just doesn't have the strength to finish inside right now. He's smart enough to adjust and once he gets a full season with Hudy I expect him to have a big jump in both eFG and his FG% at the rim next season. He also rebounds well offensively and moves the ball well, so he should play more.

But Wesley absolutely should be taking Traylor's playing time. Despite Traylor being the second best shot blocker on the team this year, Wesley is much better at positional post defense, and in all honesty probably is Kansas's second best interior defender. If his foul problems from last year persist then it will allow Traylor to get more playing time, but with Wesley being a better finisher, even if he never shoots the gap in offense is so small that it doesn't justify playing the worse defender (who can't shoot) based on potential alone. Traylor and Ellis will get there, but in March when each game is a must win, Justin Wesley should be the primary backup.

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