Brandan Wright has become a hot topic of discussion around Mavsland, provoking a variety of opinions. The MMB post game email Tuesday was one long lament of opportunity lost, much of it surrounding Mr. Wright. Some questions were posed to the staff about Wright, and here's what everyone had to say.
What is Brandan Wright's role on the current Dallas squad?
Andy: Here's the thing about Wright: no one will ever convince me that there isn't a way to play a guy who makes basically every shot he shoots, basically all the time. He averaged 61% in both Feb and March and he did it with finesse moves against skilled defenders. I think if everyone looked into their souls they'd find they were being pretty inconsistent with which players they decided could or could not be played because they weren't two way players. Play him. Play him with Dirk, they play great together. Play him 25-30 minutes a night, he's one of the only talented young players on a team that has none. You want to whine about how bad the defense is with him? Yeah, great, the Mavs ranking at #27 in points allowed is probably all his fault. Cool.
Josh: Offensive savant. Shooting around or above 60 percent is nothing new for Wright, who compliments Dirk Nowitzki perfectly from an offensive standpoint. As I detailed in my post earlier this week about Wright, he's a monster in the paint, has mastered the area of the floor most NBA players miss shots and has extended his range to 15-19 feet. His improvement over one year on the offensive end has been substantial and he was a pretty damn good offensive player last year. Wright sucks up space in the middle on his pick and rolls like no other big man on the roster, freeing up Dirk for spot up looks and giving teammates open corner threes and clearer driving angles. When Wright and Dirk share the floor, according the NBA.com, they score at a pace greater than the Miami Heat, OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. Now, about that defense and rebounding...
Hal: Wright blitzes opposing defenses. End of story. That's his job and he does it BRILLIANTLY. We've already talked about his extraordinary efficiency and astronomical offensive numbers with Dirk on the floor. While he and Dirk are on the court together, the offense runs so perfectly it almost sings. But with everyone else? He does fine, but I don't know if he's the offensive virtuoso that everyone seems to be claiming he is: per this awesome chart from the Two Man Game he's been both hot and cold in high minutes with all our non-Dirk major pieces (OJ Mayo, Vince, DC, even Mike James). He scores a rather ho-hum (by Dallas' measure anyway) 105 points per 100 possessions when he's not playing with Dirk on the floor. He's good, but he's not going to score us into a game by himself.
Jonathan: My favorite Wright stat is this: when he plays 20+ minutes, the Mavs are 16-8. When he doesn't, 20-30. He gives Dallas a 5 that can move his feet, catch the ball, finish above the rim and knock down free throws. Doesn't sound like much, but it actually is. Wright can just murder small-ball teams. The problem is he has a hard time matching up with legitimate big men who can punish him for being 6'10 210. If you can get away with a front-line of Wright and Dirk defensively, you're going to score a lot of points.
Tim: B-Wright is athletic, mobile, a great finisher at the rim -- basically the exact opposite than the rest of the aging Mavs front court. He's not a great fit on this team, but the Mavericks are so desperate for the qualities he brings that Carlisle really has no choice but play him. His perfect situation is next to a strong defending, above average rebounding post player, but the Mavericks don't have one of those players. The only option the Mavericks really have is to play him next to Dirk, an average post defender who, at this point of his career, is a below average rebounder. As of late, Carlisle's been able to get away against this lineup, but then you'll have games where Carlos Boozer has a career night and there's nothing you can do about it.
Kirk: I see his role as basic - hit shots, play excellent help defense, and basically don't hurt the Mavericks while he's on the floor. I've enjoyed seeing him improve on defense, because it means Rick Carlisle will keep him out there more for offense. I understand and tend to agree with Andy's point about him making all of his shots, because it means he is a net positive no matter how bad his defense is, but it's going to be hard to convince any coach to keep a guy out there who hurts the team defensive structure.
What is Wright's value, both now and moving forward?
Tim: He definitely has value for the Mavs because they're still not going to have an athletic, mobile center who can finish at the rim next year, either. However, it's possible other teams who have that big, rebounding forward to pair with him would value him even more than the Mavericks would.
Hal: Wright and Dirk could totally play at least 25 minutes a game together, and even if their defense together is bad, that pairing has outscored opponents by a whopping 18 points per 100 possessions over the last 12 games. That sounds, to me, like the perfect off-the-bench combo. Forget Vince as the sixth man we know and love, make it Wright. He still has lots of value as someone who can just a beat another team into submission.
The problem with that plan is that Wright needs a really specific set of circumstances to be valuable. He needs a superstar (Dirk style) to suck in help defense away from the ball to allow Wright more or less a clear path to the basket on the pick and roll. Even when someone makes the mistake of helping off of Dirk, Wright is a good enough elbow facilitator to make them pay. But take Dirk out of the equation and Wright doesn't know how to respond to the help defense, and he flounders. The other thing that has to happen to really take advantage of Wright's skill set is we need to run. Thanks to Collison and Mayo, The Mavs can do that plenty, but neither has had the presence of mind to actually take advantage of Wright's athleticism in that context, and running like that really takes Dirk out of his comfort zone.
So I think his value next season depends on who else we pick up. He played such limited minutes in the beginning of the season that I can't confirm this, but I think that if the Mavs can build a pseudo-small-ball type bench squad, Wright could be a really, really valuable bench piece. But if they don't, they end up with a solid contributor who will forever be just slightly out of place, and a great asset to dangle in front of a team that could use him perfectly (think Rockets, Nuggets, Heat). And that's not bad either.
Kirk: For the past month, he's been the most important non-Dirk big man Dallas has had. Every post player in Dallas has had their day in the sun; Kaman started the year brilliantly, Brand had a fantastic January and December, Wright has been the guy for part of February and March. I just can't figure out where he fits long term. He IS young, and big men develop late, but his frame limits his ceiling, no matter how small the NBA trends. I see him being a rotation big man, probably not a starter, but a guy who grabs 20-25 minutes a game for most of his career. Dallas uses him in space around the dead zone of 5-15 feet and he excels. I'm not sure where else he gets these sorts of chances.
Jonathan: Wright's best used as a backup 4/5 whose minutes vary depending on the match-up. He's only 25 years old and he's a 6'10 guy who can play, so you might as well keep him around if you can. Not like there are too many other great front-court options on this team right now.
Andy: If the Mavs aren't going to commit to playing and developing Wright, they shouldn't keep him. If they're serious about him being a big part of what they do, they should. Keep him and Mayo and have some young talent for once, for god's sake. Think about all the Dwight Howards you won't be getting because of that otherwise committed money, then get over it because it wasn't ever going to happen anyway. Don't think he's a good center? Cool, play him at PF and get a good center. Stop bothering me.
Josh: This is the toughest question. How do you value a player who is elite in the pick and roll and finishing around the rim and in the paint, but that's about it? Wright can't shoulder an offensive load, you can't throw the ball to him in the post or on the wing and let him work --- almost all of his offense is from kick outs, dive cuts, rolling hard on picks and offensive rebounds. Actually, that's exactly what Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler have done to become elite centers and garner fat paychecks. The problem: Wright isn't even close to being on their level defensively. It's hard to guess how much teams will pay for such a one-trick pony like Wright, but damn, that one trick is pretty solid. In today's spread attack and drive-and-kick NBA landscape, Wright has an extremely valuable skill. If team's feel he can get better on the other end (improve his defensive and rebounding techniques, bulk up) and he could, since he's 25, I'd imagine a team will overpay the 3-years, $10 million I feel is an acceptable amount. But who knows in this new luxury tax-driven NBA world.
Do you offer him a contract? If so for how long? What about a sign and trade?
Josh: As mentioned before, Wright has a fit on the team, is 25 and one of the only youthful pieces that have shown some actual progression from the start of his Mavericks tenure. Is he the starting center next to Dirk for the next 5 years? Of course not. But he can be a valuable weapon off the bench or in certain starting matchups in the regular season and playoffs. If the years and money are relatively low (I think the Mavs would jump at another two-year deal) I think they take it when the free agent class dries up. But Wright's played his way into a longer deal and the Mavs won't have none of that with the free agent class of 2014 looming.
Kirk: This is a dicey question because it relates back to what you think his ceiling is as a player. I appreciate his growth, but he's not a starting center long term. Dallas can and has stolen minutes for him and I love how he and Dirk play together. But I also think that's something other teams can game plan against. We saw in 2011 how well Dirk played with a true rim defender, and Wright isn't that. I don't know how to determine his market value and I honestly think using him as an asset in a sign and trade is the best move for Dallas. Then again, what do I know?
Jonathan: If you look around at the salaries of backup big men in the NBA, Wright probably fits in somewhere between what Darrell Arthur got from the Grizzlies (3 years, $10 million) and what Joel Anthony (5 years, $18 million) got from the Heat. I'd be comfortable w/any contract in that range. As for the trading angle, I'm not sure you're going to get much out of a sign-and-trade on an unrestricted free agent. At the time, it seemed like the Mavs got a decent deal for Ian Mahinmi in Darren Collison, but we all know how that turned out.
Andy: I offer him a 3 year, 12 million dollar contract. Someone might offer him more than that, based on potential, but I have a feeling that the days when people overpaid for moderate potential rather than overwhelming potential or realized talent, are over. Has Wright ever even made a million? He's had a PER north of 21 for two years. Teams need all kinds of things, Wright can provide some of them.
Tim: Not my area of expertise. I can't imagine the Mavericks wouldn't offer him a contract, but what matters is how much other teams offer him. It all goes back to what his value is
Hal: I offer him 2 year, 7 million. Sign and trade if the offer is appealing, but the only reasonable offer that I see the Mavs getting for Wright would be MAYBE Andre Miller, and that's a LONG SHOT to say the least (though it's a hell of a pipe dream). But if the Nuggets wanted to clear the cap sheet a little bit and pack another running big into the lineup, Wright would make sense. Otherwise I say hang on and keep using him with Dirk to blitz defenses and hope he develops to be a guy who can respectively defend and hold his own without a superstar.
Any parting thoughts on Wright?
Jonathan: Wright has got a 7'4 wingspan, a 30+ inch vertical and a really soft touch around the rim. That 21.3 PER is no accident. He can play basketball. And if you look back at the season, it's no coincidence the Mavs best two stretches (the start and the last 2-3 weeks) have coincided with him in the starting line-up. I remember the game when Carlisle first started playing Troy Murphy over him and I told my friend, next press conference, I'm going to make my shoes off and chuck them at his head like he's George Bush.
Tim: I really like Wright, and honestly, who wouldn't? He can sky for alley-oops and his mid-range jumper developed into a weapon out of nowhere this season. He has some glaring weaknesses, yes, but he's absolutely an 20+ minutes per game player in the NBA for the next several years, at least. I'm not sure the Mavericks are the right team for him and my gut says he'll leave to go somewhere else where he does fit better and is assured more consistency in his usage. If the team feels he'd be able to bulk up and improve his strength and rebounding over the next few years, then they gotta keep him here in Dallas, especially with Dirk's minutes decreasing at the 4 spot. Otherwise, as much as I love him, he's not crucial to this team moving forwards. I'd love to hold onto him and the Mavericks definitely still could, but it's not crucial.
Andy: Every single Mavs fan everywhere, apparently, believes the Mavs should only invest in complete players who are amazing, apparently failing to notice that they haven't managed to get basically anybody at all for two years. You've got a good thing here, Mavs fans. Don't overthink it.
Hal: I really like him, but the fact that he's been almost the most prolific in Mike James pick and rolls worries me. I think this is an indication that he has a hard time figuring out offense without the guidance of a veteran, and just having a real point guard might fix this completely, but just the sentence "most prolific in Mike James..." gives me the heebie jeebies. We'll have to see how his development goes.
Kirk: I'm grateful he got a second chance after a disastrous rookie contract run. That he took full advantage of it in Dallas is a testament to his growth as a player and his character as a person. Unless Dallas can lock him up for something reasonable, I'm afraid his time as a Maverick may be drawing to a close. Wright has been a bright spot in a season that has been challenging to watch. I look forward to watching him play, even if that means him not being in a Maverick uniform.
Josh: He's a unique and fascinating player that the Mavs haven't had in quite some time -- a combination of youth and athleticism materialized in the way all fans wished Rodrigue Beabuois would develop. Wright has been one of the few youth success stories this Mavericks franchise has had in some time. I'll always remember that. And the oops. The wonderful, ridiculous oops.