Dallas Mavericks Player Preview: Brandan Wright

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Continuing down the line in the Mavs Moneyball player previews, we've passed the rookies and the perpetually stifled(Dominique Jones), and now we start to get to the players who have more of a chance of making a real impact with the Dallas Mavericks this season.

Maybe.

The next player to be previewed is a young, talented big man coming off a career season, but, and stop me if you've heard this already: he'll face steep competition from a group of quality veterans currently ahead of him on the depth chart. I'm talking, of course, about high-flying Brandan Wright.

For those unfamiliar with Brandan Wright's career prior to arriving in Dallas, he was the 8th overall pick in the 2007 draft, by Charlotte(traded on draft night to the Golden State Warriors in the Jason Richardson deal), who showed promise but nearly had his career almost completely derailed by injuries. Various ailments had already slowed him down his first two years, but recurring problems with his shoulder kept him out the entire 2008-2009 season and half of the following year. From 2007-08 through last season, Wright had played in just 114 of a possible 328 games. So, playing 49 out of 66, as he did with the Mavs, has to be seen as a major step forward.

As one might guess, Wright set career highs in minutes played, points, rebounds, blocks, etc, but it wasn't just about quantity. Wright also shot a career best 61.8% from the field and posted a personal high 21.66 PER, which was second on the team behind this Euro named Dirk something. He also had some of the best dunks we've seen in years, like this one against Detroit where he jumped approximately 20 million feet in the air, or this one where he hung in the air long enough to change hands and nearly gave poor Mark Followill a stroke, and of course there's this one, which I think we all mainly love because it gave us the annual hilarious Dirk play by play call. I'll include his 7 block game against the Rockets with his stats because that's pretty fun to watch, too:

Season Age Tm Lg G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2007-08 20 GSW NBA 38 6 9.9 1.6 2.9 .554 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.1 .675 1.0 1.6 2.6 0.2 0.2 0.6 0.3 0.9 4.0
2008-09 21 GSW NBA 39 23 17.6 3.3 6.3 .528 0.0 0.1 .000 1.6 2.2 .741 1.6 2.4 4.0 0.5 0.6 0.9 0.6 1.9 8.3
2010-11 23 TOT NBA 37 2 10.2 1.6 3.2 .513 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.8 .677 0.8 1.6 2.4 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.9 3.8
2010-11 23 GSW NBA 21 1 9.3 1.8 3.0 .603 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.7 .500 0.7 1.3 2.0 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.5 0.9 4.0
2010-11 23 NJN NBA 16 1 11.5 1.4 3.4 .407 0.0 0.0 0.9 1.1 .824 1.1 1.9 3.0 0.4 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.9 3.6
2011-12 24 DAL NBA 49 0 16.1 2.9 4.8 .618 0.0 0.0 .000 1.1 1.7 .634 1.3 2.3 3.6 0.3 0.4 1.3 0.4 1.2 6.9
Career NBA 163 31 13.7 2.4 4.3 .559 0.0 0.0 .000 1.0 1.5 .685 1.2 2.0 3.2 0.3 0.4 0.9 0.4 1.3 5.9

So, Brandan Wright had career highs last, is still young, has a strong draft pedigree, challenges Roddy Beaubois for most athletic guy on the team(and in team history). And yet, it's hard to project him as anything better than the fourth big man.

I do think he'll play. He's simply too good to keep on the bench. He can do things that are not only extremely important, but that nobody else on this roster can duplicate. His efficient, "easy basket" generating athleticism and length are Tyson Chandler like, and it's not all flash. He dominated stretches off the bench in the middle part of the season, scoring at will at one end and blocking everything in sight at the other. I don't think I'm overstating it: he has game-changing physical gifts.

The problem is that he's on the wrong team. He really is. Immediately after his signing was announced, there was an interview with Rick Carlisle where he revealed that the coaching staff viewed him as "more of a 5", which raised a few eyebrows(mine, anyway). Brandan Wright is 6'10 and a rail thin 210 pounds, and had never played center for any extended stretch in the NBA. Of course, the reason for the change was simple: Dirk Nowitzki is here. And as exciting and productive as Brandan Wright is, he's just not a good fit to play alongside the big German. Wright doesn't have the bulk to body up opposing big man, a trait that's useful because it helps saves Dirk's energy for the other end of the floor, and although he's long and can jump, Wright is a below average rebounder, and an especially bad defensive rebounder, since his lack of strength hurts him in boxing out. Wright also is still somewhat raw in his understanding of complex defensive schemes(Dallas on the year gave up more points with him on the court than off), and has yet to develop a space-spreading jumpshot, although he is a decent enough foul-shooter to give hope.

I had espoused the belief that Wright might be a key factor in the playoffs last year, after Dallas ended up facing the Oklahoma City Thunder, rather than the hulking Lakers or Grizzlies. My thinking was that the absence of a low-post threat meant that Wright could be hid on defense more effectively, allowing him to be an X factor on offense as one of the few weapons Dallas had that matched up with the super-athletic OKC squad. Unfortunately, that didn't work out at all. Wright was jittery and pretty useless against Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, and saw little game action in the four games. This is a big reason that, despite what was really a pretty great season for Wright, it's hard to think the team has a whole lot of faith in him. Think about this: both centers who were ahead of Wright on the depth chart last year are gone, Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, and instead of promoting Wright, the team went out and brought in two new veterans, who together have an even better track record than those preceding.

Add it all up, and what it seems we have is a talented player who does a few things as well as any player in basketball(the only big men with a better true shooting percentage were Tyson Chandler and Tiago Splitter), but who's weaknesses make him a poor fit with his current team. It's really a shame, because Wright is a pretty good success story for Dallas from an acquisition and development standpoint. They targeted a guy they liked, and even if he isn't likely to start or play 30+ minutes, he's turned his career around here. Maybe the ideal scenario for everyone would be for Dallas to get Wright in the game as often as possible, in order to showcase him for a team interested in a deadline swap. His youth, talent and miniscule salary have to make him at least a somewhat attractive piece. Either way, Brandan Wright deserves to play 20+ minutes at power forward for somebody.

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