DALLAS — Although he saw limited action for the Dallas Mavericks during their first-round playoff series against the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, big man Brandan Wright still managed to show glimpses of budding stardom this season.
Hampered by a nagging left shoulder injury during the preseason, Wright would finally make his long-awaited season debut on Dec. 14 against the Milwaukee Bucks. And with 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle both sidelined due to illnesses, Wright would quickly proceed to make up for lost time and the absences of the team’s two leaders while scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench during a 106-93 home win.
Wright would go on to provide several highlight reel finishes off lob passes from reserve guard Devin Harris, who instantly seemed to form a bond with the former North Carolina standout in the Mavericks’ second unit. However, according to Wright, that offensive production and efficient play was just a small sample of what’s to come next season as the 26-year-old continues to patent his skills.
“That’s the baseline,” Wright said. “I’d say that’s the minimum standard. I think I can go well beyond that.”
Coming on strong to close the 2012-13 season, Wright re-signed with the Mavs last summer after averaging 8.5 points on 59.7 percent shooting, grabbing down 4.1 rebounds and registering 1.2 blocked shots in his 18.0 minutes per game. He then found himself in a three-man rotation at center this season, coming off the bench in all of his 58 appearances and averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 boards a game in 18.6 minutes of work.
Connecting on a team-best and career-high 67.7 percent shooting from the field, Wright would continue his efficient offensive production throughout the season. His uncanny ability to get the ball in the basket was also on full display on April 4 when Wright set a team high for makes without a miss, going 10-for-10 from the field and finishing with a season-high 23 points as the Mavs stormed through the Los Angeles Lakers with a 107-95 road victory.
“You know, no one wants to miss shots,” a modest Wright said after the performance. “I want to make them all, but to have a night like this is a credit to my teammates, putting me in a good position. I can’t do anything but praise those guys.”
But can Wright ascend to another level?
Seeing most of his time at the center position in three seasons with the Mavs, Wright could be asked to expand his time at power forward next year if the front office cannot successfully re-sign free-agent-to-be Shawn Marion. The six-year veteran will also have to atone for a pedestrian playoff series against the Spurs, averaging just 5.5 points and 2.0 boards while fellow big man DeJuan Blair leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
Still, Wright and the Mavs’ front office believe he has not come close to reaching his ceiling, committing to coming back even better next season.
“He’s one of the best players we have,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said last season while praising Wright. “Based on our personnel, there will be times when he’s the 4 man. But he’s one of those guys, he’s a basketball player. His position is ‘on the floor.’”
“I just want to go out there and help this team win and do what I do best,” Wright modestly added. “That’s what it comes down to, and then it will help our paint scoring out, getting myself playing above the rim and just getting another piece that can help this team elevate.”