I have never had a chance to discuss Julian's impromptu departure from Lawrence to the riches and fame of the National Basketball Association as I have been on vacation this past week. The doomsday scenario (3rd comment) never happened and instead Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers all made it clear that they would be playing for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Rush's decision between college fame and NBA's riches is still to be made, but my gut feeling has told me all season long that he is going to leave for the NBA, despite being far from being a lottery pick (#20 highest he was taken). Still, the Brandon Rush-to-the-NBA is a topic for another day, for now let's just discuss the hole that Julian leaves and how we can fill that void.
What We Lose
Besides his 12 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, we also lose our biggest playmaker and the biggest headache opposing coaches have to consider. Wright is such a special athlete that he caused teams to play different defenses to keep him in change, and with him gone we lose that 'X-Factor'. Still, his inconsistency won't be missed as well as his lack of shooting touch. He proved in the first half of November's contest against Florida proved just how dangerous he can be if he is knocking down his jumpshot, but that was the only extended period of time where he could sink that shot consistently. If DA plays as well as he is capable of, we will have more of a 'frontcourt' so-to-speak with two big bodies (whether that other big body is Sasha, DJack or Aldrich) to impose our will physically on opponents. Julian wasn't a 'soft' player, but he was almost always smaller than his frontcourt counterpart, something that will happen much less often with Shady as the starter.
Who Will Replace What we Lose?
I already hinted at this, but Darrell Arthur has Julian Wright's minutes to lose with last season's 20 or so minutes going to new freshman big man Cole Aldrich. So, in a weird, indirect sorta way a 6'11" burly white man from Minnesota is replacing a 6'8" athletic black man from downtown Chicago. If you were playing basketball, who would you take? While that answer would be the 6'8" athletic man every day of the week and twice on Sunday, Aldrich isn't receiving all ~32 minutes that Julian received, with a 12 minute increase for Shady. I know, I am getting a little too mathematical for you to follow in paragraph form so let's make a crude chart of it. These aren't real averages, just basic forms of measurement that I would guess having watched every Jayhawk game all season long.
2006-07 Minute Averages
Julian Wright: ~32 minutes
Darrell Arthir: ~20 minutes
Cole Aldrich: 0 minutes
2007-08 Projected Minute Averages
Julian Wright: 0 minutes
Darrell Arthur: ~32 minutes
Cole Aldrich: ~20 minutes
While this assumes that DJack and Sasha don't have any changes in their minute totals next season (or the increase in minutes of DJack comes at the expense of Sasha or vice versa) it gives you a decent portrayal of what our big man rotation will be like.
While it hurts that Julian is leaving Lawrence for the riches of the NBA, I think that Shady is more than ready to step up and become a 30+ minute guy for this team before his likely jump to the NBA after his sophomore season. It was a very smart decision by him to stick around one more season so he gets more playing time, but I will go on record now that unless he crashes and burns next season he will be leave Lawrence early. Without Julian, our big man rotation will be the same as it was before with DA filling Julian's cog and incoming freshman Cole Aldrich assuming DA's minute responsibilities. Whether or not we are as solid in the frontcourt depends mostly on Shady filling Julian's sizable shoes, but also on Cole Aldrich and whether he can be a more consistent producer than DA and grab 6+ rebounds a game.