One-on-One with Brandan Wright

Mavs F Brandan Wright comments on the impact he's had on the defensive end, accomplishing the goal of making the playoffs, the importance of winning 50 games and more.

Each member of the Mavs’ three-headed monster at center has a very specific role. Sam Dalembert starts, sets hard screens, grabs rebounds at both ends, and protects the rim. Brandan Wright flies high and uses his length to bother pick-and-roll point guards. DeJuan Blair brings the energy.

All season long, head coach Rick Carlisle has juggled their minutes, often sticking primarily with the hot hand at any given time. Blair received the majority of the minutes early in the season, then they shifted to Wright, and finally to Dalembert. During the last eight games, though, it’s been Wright who has once again separated himself from the group. The offensive-minded center has had a larger defensive impact than even Carlisle could have asked for, and Dallas has reaped the benefits.

In the eight games following the Mavs’ tough home loss to the Clippers on March 27, Wright has taken his defensive game to another level. His game-sealing block Saturday on Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe was just the cherry on top of a superb last two weeks. During that time, the Mavericks have allowed 104.9 points per 100 possessions when Wright mans the middle, the best mark among Mavs big men. What’s more, the Mavericks have gone 6-2 in those eight games.

He’s also averaging 1.25 blocks during the stretch, and all of his season-high 11 rebounds against Phoenix were of the must-have variety. Carlisle has taken notice of Wright’s impact on the defensive end lately.

“It was huge on some of those plays in the fourth quarter,” the coach said after the win against the Suns. “The block was huge. He had some other big rebounds in traffic. We needed every ounce that everybody gave us tonight.”

Block of the Night: Brandan Wright

With the game on the line, Eric Bledsoe drives strong for the layup and Brandan Wright gets the big block to keep the points off the board.

“He was great,” Monta Ellis added. “He got a lot of rebounds that we needed. He played a heck of a game.

If Wright obliged Carlisle’s request of leaving it all on the floor, then he used all of his remaining energy to swat Bledsoe’s game-tying layup. After the game, Wright wondered whether it might be one of the biggest plays of his career.

“It’s right up there,” he said. “He probably hits that layup if I don’t come over. It pretty much clinched a (playoff) spot. It’s one of those things you look back on.”

During the past eight games, opponents are only grabbing offensive rebounds on 25.4 percent of their missed shots when Wright is on the floor, 2.9 points lower than the team’s average during that time, and 3.9 points lower than any other Mavericks center. Rebounding is obviously a collaborative effort, but Wright’s presence on the floor lately has generally meant good things for the Mavs’ defensive rebounding, which has been something of a weakness this season.

His defensive impact has been even more noticeable. During the last eight games, Wright is a member of each of the Mavs’ best three-man units in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions (with more than 10 minutes played).

Brandan’s Boost

Lineup Games Played (Minuted Played) Defensive Rating
Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright 8 (39) 87.8
Jae Crowder, Monta Ellis, Brandan Wright 8 (31) 89.1
Jae Crowder, Devin Harris, Brandan Wright 8 (59) 90.8

For reference, the Mavs’ defensive rating as a team (the points they allow per 100 possessions) is 107.5. That means each of those three-man units is outperforming the team average by at least 16 points. Even if it’s only for four or five minutes per game, those units are suffocating opponents’ second units, and more often than not it results in a big run for the Mavericks.

Wright has bewildered stats guys throughout the past few seasons, as his Player Efficiency Rating has constantly been near the top of the league. This season, for example, Wright’s 23.69 PER is 11th-best among active players, according to ESPN. He falls right behind Blake Griffin and one spot ahead of Dirk Nowitzki. That isn’t to say Wright is any better or worse than the players behind him, but that he plays just 18.6 minutes per game and is still able to make a large enough impact to produce a PER higher than 23 is nothing short of astonishing.

The big man is mostly known for his offense, and he’s earned the reputation. Among players who have appeared in at least 50 games this season, Wright’s 67.2 field goal percentage ranks third in the NBA. His 10-for-10 performance against the Lakers on April 4 stands out as one of the most efficient performances of the season in the entire league. Only Serge Ibaka (12) hit more shots in a game this season without missing a field goal attempt.

But, as Carlisle and Ellis alluded to, his defense and rebounding have stood out down the stretch, when every single game has mattered. Wright’s contribution on both ends is a huge reason Dallas is in the playoffs.

“We’re happy to get in,” Wright said. “We don’t know who we will play, but I think we’re a dangerous team. We’ve got a lot of players capable of making plays, a lot of veterans over here who want to win. It will be exciting for us.”

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