It would be understandable if you forgot Brandan Wright is on the Dallas Mavericks.
A lot has happened this offseason. Between hometown discounts, long-awaited returns and exciting additions, it makes sense that Wright might get lost in the shuffle, but he’s probably the most athletic player on the Mavericks’ roster and we think -- and HE thinks -- he could turn out to be an enormous x-factor this season.
Mark Cuban’s “Fallen Angel” Theory benefits from the luxury of Rick Carlisle’s ability to harness the talent of cast-off players and turn them into efficient winners. Carlisle is so good at this that we’ve grown to expect a one-year turnaround in a player’s reputation or performance. (As we've noted before, Monta Ellis comes to mind as a Fallen Angel who has re-sprouted wings). But it’s not always that simple. Wright certainly qualifies as a Fallen Angel, a former lottery pick who played four injury-riddled and unproductive seasons before the Mavericks took a chance on him. He didn’t make Cuban and company look like geniuses immediately, but he improved as a rotational player for three straight years.
Last season, Wright was one of the most efficient players in the NBA. His averages per 36 minutes were 17.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, all while shooting .677% from the field.
If you didn’t notice those numbers then you most certainly noticed the lobs he slammed home on a regular basis. He became a skywalking master at finishing pick-and-rolls with an alley-oop. Wright also is gifted at executing a tricky play where he begins to set a screen only to “slip” out of it and head to the basket preparing himself for a lob. It appears that he is just setting a lazy screen, but it is actually a designed play in which he allows the two defenders to prepare themselves for the screen while he quickly puts himself in position to catch the mid-air pass. It should be a fun thing to look out for this season especially considering Tyson Chandler sets very physical screens. Over the course of the game, defenders will tend to brace themselves for the contact. Wright can take advantage of this with his “slip” screen.
Indeed, as we hang out with B-Wright for this DB.com Video Visit, we talk about the alley-oops, the chemistry with Devin and the possibility that Wright stays on the floor with Chandler to do interior damage:
The fast pace style with which Wright makes plays on both ends of the court make it clear he is a fun player to play with when the team is in a groove. Wright was able to develop quick chemistry with most of the Mavericks’ roster, most notably Devin Harris. Wright tells us that while his game is very adaptable, the chemistry he quickly develops is no accident. He puts in the research to get a head start and expects to have the same chemistry with the new players on the roster.
“I study these guys,” Wright says. “I know what they can do and what they are comfortable doing and not comfortable doing. I’m going to try to put those guys in a position to be successful whether it’s through pick-and-rolls or defense.”
The chemistry between Harris and Wright is one reason it would make sense for Harris to come off the bench. (With Jameer Nelson as the No. 1 point guard, as we detail here.) The two of them leading the second unit could be a strength for the Mavericks. We’ve already detailed the potential of the Monta/Tyson pick-and-roll at DB.com, and we think the Devin/Brandan pick-and-roll will continue to be at least a junior version of that with a similar level of relentlessness and out-of-your-seat electricity.
Wright’s going to catch lobs and use his athleticism to create about as many highlight-reel plays as anyone on the roster. The question is will he be able to avoid being a defensive liability (beyond being an instinctive and rangy shot-blocker, as you see above) who can’t stay on the floor against certain units?
No one ever questioned Wright’s defensive instincts or effort and his athleticism certainly comes in handy on that side of the court. The problem was simply that his build didn’t quite allow him the strength to defensively deal with some of the bigger, stronger, most effective big men in the league. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the Mavericks often play him at center, creating an even bigger strength disadvantage.
But for two straight offseasons, Wright has worked in the weight room to add legitimate strength and size to his upper body. Wright is noticeably bigger and, perhaps, better prepared to stay on the court against bigger players whom he will already have a quickness advantage over.
“He has worked on his body strength every year and that’s going to help him,” Carlisle says.
Another way to get Wright on the court more would be, as he himself suggests to us, to give him the backup power forward minutes. Carlisle will constantly be looking at ways to give Nowitzki additional rest. A lot has been said of Parsons moving over to the 4 sometimes after claims that he has worked on his strength so he can handle it. While that is probably true, we're not sure Parsons is winning any arm-wrestling competitions with Wright.
Having Tyson Chandler and Wright on the floor at the same time would be an interesting experiment. Wright has always thought of himself as a more natural power forward.
“That would be nice,” Wright tells us. “We could control the boards. We’ve got a lot of length, a lot of size, a lot of athletic ability. That hurts a lot of teams, especially when you have those type of guys on the front line. A lot of blocked shots and things the other team has to account for. We could really be a dangerous combo.''
Wright mentioned that Carlisle prefers to have a stretch 4 on the floor so in order to make it work they would have to compensate for that with one thing in particular.
“We’d really have to dominate the offensive glass playing that lineup,” he says.
Domination, in one form or another, would be the best way for folks to quit sort of forgetting about Brandan Wright.