While the 2011-2012 season was a season of disappointment following the summer of our discontent, there were a few bright spots for the Mavericks. No, I’m not talking about Lamar Odom Kardashian‘s instructions to pack his bags.
One would be Delonte West’s tenacious play on both ends of the court. Another would be Vince Carter, who didn’t have a great series against the Thunder but had a much better regular season than one might gather at first glance.
The most significant hope for the long term, however, would appear to be Brandan Wright. After a disappointing early career marred by hip and shoulder injuries, Wright made it through the entire shortened season without a problem and put up solid numbers in limited playing time, including the highest field goal percentage on the team and leading the Mavericks in blocked shots.
Offensively he was a plus for the team when on the floor and had a player efficiency rating matched only by Dirk. His speed and athletic dunks won him instant fan approval and as the season wore on, he took more time away from Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi.
With Haywood gone via amnesty to the Charlotte Bobcats and Mahinmi traded to the Indiana Pacers, along with the acquisitions of Chris Kaman and Elton Brand via free agency and draftee Bernard James, the Dallas front line will look markedy different next year. This is great news for Dallas as the team has made a major offensive and defensive upgrade at both the center and power forward positions and in fact, will have the best all-around center and backup power forward of the Dirk Nowitski era if not in the history of the franchise.
The question is, where does that leave room for Brandan Wright?
On offense, Kaman looks to have backup primarily from Brand even though he is undersized. While Wright showed a nice touch around the basket he hasn’t developed his midrange game. On the other end of the floor, he is simply not built to defend NBA centers who far outweigh him and reserve minutes may be better left to Brand and James.
Having him play more at power forward, his natural position, seems more logical but again, where to find minutes after Dirk and Brand? There are specific concerns, as ESPN’s Jeff Caplan explains:
“At power forward, Nowitzki and Brand likely won’t yield many minutes for a third participant, and coach Rick Carlisle was hesitant to use Wright at the 4 last season even when starting small forward Shawn Marion served as the lone backup behind Dirk. Carlisle stated then that Wright’s offensive capabilities did not fit at power forward in the Mavs’ offense. He simply does not shoot well enough to help spread the floor.”
So the question is, is there a place for Wright in the rotation?
If Carlisle’s offense normally demands that the power forward have an outside shot, is it not acceptable to have a player without one if everyone else on the floor does? With Kaman, Brand, Dirk and most of the small forwards and guards, the outside seems pretty well covered.
With Shawn Marion backing Dirk up last year, that would seem to have been the case, not because he can’t hit from outside, but rather because in his entire career he’s had a reputation for scoring without plays being run for him either in the lane or otherwise. I don’t recall that changing last year.
Wright had a positive impact on the team offensively last year even against bigger bulkier centers because he was able to use his agility and quickness. Having Wright play center on offense while Kaman or Brand play the power forward and then switching for defense might be also be a logical alternative.
Perhaps it also might make sense to have Wright play at the 3. Without knowing the express design of Carlisle’s system in regard to the small forward, again, Marion hardly shoots from the outside even though he is capable of doing so. Perhaps Wright could play a similar role while leaving the outside shot to the other four guys on the floor.
All this can become less of a concern, however, if Wright simply develops his midrange jumper. I feel quite certain that will be a directive for Wright to work on and myight constitute the bulk of his homework assignments.
Speaking of bulk, they may have him hit the weight room as well.
As most Maverick observers I’ve been excited about the possibility of Wright’s continued development. After a spectacular high school career and an impressive but short stay with the North Carolina Tar Heels, he has always seemed to have the potential but injuries have prevented him from achieving greatness in the NBA.
Ironically, I was personally more interested in shoring up the offense with Luis Scola who could have possibly spend time at both small forward and power forward rather than taking on Elton Brand, who has had a phenomenal career but has slowed with injuries and age and is more likely to take up minutes at the 4 or 5 where Wright is best suited to play.
But Brand was the acquisition and he has a lot to offer the team so it makes sense for Rick Carlisle to use him to the best of his ability. In the meantime, Wright is still very young and as none of the starters nor Brand are spring chickens and there is always the possibility of injury, I believe bringing him along to be of critical importance.
Not every player makes a huge impact when he first enters the league and I seem to recall one Dirk Nowitzki entering the league as a skinny seven-footer who could only hit from the outside and was considered “soft.” Yes, there is only one Dirk but talented players with good coaching and a strong work ethic can find their way from struggles to stardom in time.
Brandan Wright proved without a doubt last year that he’s still got game and hopefully, Coach Carlisle can find a way to help him continue has journey toward greatness in the NBA.
– Craig Berlin
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