Brandan Wright's frame, 6-foot-10 and 210 pounds, isn't exactly one of a prototypical NBA center. The Dallas Mavericks knew this last season when they moved the career power forward to the middle. Entering an important contract season, is Wright destined to stay there?
The Mavs -- and their fans -- fell in love with Wright's high-flying athleticism. Offensively, he found ways to use his quickness to his advantage against bigger centers, running the floor and rolling to the basket to easily become the team's dunk and alley-oop king. With Wright on the floor last season, Dallas scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than with him on the bench, according to advanced stats website 82games.com. However, on the defensive end the numbers flip. The Mavs allowed 2.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Wright off the floor.
It's why the Los Angeles Lakers, with 7-foot, 285-pound center Andrew Bynum, were not the preferred playoff foe last season, at least among most media and fans. Had the Mavs played L.A., it was feared Wright's energy would be relegated to warming the bench. As it turned out, Dallas faced the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round and the 24-year-old Wright was overwhelmed either by his first playoff appearance and/or Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins (6-10, 270) and Serge Ibaka (6-10, 235). He played 27 total minutes in the four games (after averaging 16.1 minutes during the regular season) and averaged 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds with one block and three turnovers.
Wright, who comes cheaply again this season at under $1 million, started the season as the third-string center and about a month into the season he started earning regular minutes. At times he played more than disappointing starter Brendan Haywood (amnestied last month and acquired by Charlotte) and improving, but still raw backup Ian Mahinmi (now with Indiana in a sign-and-trade).
Wright would seem hard-pressed to find more minutes than the two centers ahead of him this coming season.
Chris Kaman, a 7-foot, high-intensity, back-to-the-basket center, takes over the starting job and seems a lock, assuming good health, to log more than the 21.2 minutes Haywood averaged last season. Veteran Elton Brand enters the equation as the backup to Dirk Nowitzki at power forward as well as at center, where his sturdy 254-pound frame and long arms allow him to stand his ground despite being an inch shorter and obviously less agile than Wright. The Mavs might also try to squeeze time for 27-year-old rookie center Bernard James.
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.
Wright finished last season with a team-best 61.8 field goal percentage bolstered by 59.1 percent of his shot attempts coming at the rim, according to hoopdata.com. He made 105-of-138 of those shots (76.1 percent) from inside 3 feet. From 3 to 15 feet he was 34-of-85 (40.0) and 27-of-68 (39.7) from 3 to 9 feet, areas in need of obvious improvement.
For the former lottery pick whose short career has been stunted by injury, the 2011-12 season was something of a breakthrough. He played in 49 games, 10 more than in any of his previous three seasons, and provided his team with a useful, energetic lift.
With the additions of Kaman and Brand in the frontcourt, will Carlisle still find room for Wright?