Barring injury, Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki will soon be seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The German has done it perhaps more efficiently than any other player in the top-10 and undoubtedly is one of the best players in the league’s history.
But for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Nowitzki’s steady climb up the all-time leaderboard, one of his teammates is also making waves around the league and is even more efficient. It’s not Monta Ellis or Chandler Parsons or even Tyson Chandler. It’s Brandan Wright.
Just how efficient is the Mavs’ backup center? After three seasons in Dallas, Wright is the franchise’s all-time leader in four major offensive categories and is second in two more significant areas. Just look at the numbers below. Not only is Wright in first place on these lists. He’s in first by a mile.
Numbers Never Lie
What’s more, Wright trails only Nowitzki in career PER and win shares per 48 minutes — the first number measures efficiency while the second approximates a player’s value.
Compare and Contrast
How is this possible for a player who’s only on the floor for 18 minutes per game? Typically metrics like PER tend to favor guys who play heavy minutes, as the more time they spend on the floor, the more time they have to fill out their statistics. Wright’s insanely high PER is more a testament to his own efficiency and the way he’s used than it is to a weird quirk within the stat itself. Wright is absolutely in elite company despite playing fewer minutes per game than all but one player in the top 50. Among players behind Wright on the PER list: James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, and Joakim Noah — and each of them played at least 35 minutes per game, or nearly twice as much as Wright.
Again, how is it possible?
For starters, Wright is used in such a way that highlights his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses. He’s almost exclusively a catch-and-shoot player and excels in rolling to the rim off a screen. He was assisted on seven of every eight made field goals and almost 73 percent of his FG attempts came from within five feet, per NBA.com, and 61 percent of them came from within three feet. It’s generally considered pretty easy to finish at the rim in the NBA, but Wright has better hands and a softer touch around the basket than just about every other big in basketball. He’s also got a sweet stroke from 10-14 feet away, as well, where he hit exactly half his attempts in 2013-14.
Wright is also regularly used in combination with perimeter guys who can play off his screens. Last season, for example, he was assisted by Vince Carter 53 times, Monta Ellis 45 times, Devin Harris 40 times. When defenses played the Mavericks last season, they tended to focus more on the ball-handler off a pick-and-roll than they did the roller (unless the roller was Dirk). And after checking Wright’s shot chart from the last few seasons, it’s safe to say the Mavs will happily prefer to see that coverage again this season, when Wright will be backing up fellow elite roller Tyson Chandler. Between those two and Nowitzki, Dallas will trot out perhaps the best collective set of hands at the power forward and center positions in the league. Each of them are huge targets going toward the basket — and to the three-point line, in Dirk’s case — which is a huge luxury to ball-handlers like Ellis, Harris, and new signing Chandler Parsons.
The catch-and-shoot strategy with Wright also limits his turnovers. The big man has the best career turnover percentage in team history — his 7.6 percent mark sits ahead of second-place Nowitzki’s 8.8 percent. Again, having big men who can consistently catch the ball and get a shot off without turning it over is nearly an unquantifiable luxury, but in Wright’s case you can at least start with wins and losses to gauge his value. When he played last season, Dallas was 36-22. In games he played in that Dallas won, the team put up a 116.6 offensive rating and an equally impressive 101.2 defensive rating while he was on the floor.
He was also a part of the Mavs’ best five-man unit last season — the group of Harris, Jae Crowder, Carter, Dirk, and Wright was possibly the best lineup featuring mostly reserves in the entire NBA, and the Mavs bench figures to be just as deep, if not deeper, this season. If Wright can remain as efficient next season as he’s been these last few seasons, the Dallas bench will continue to fill it up and, more than likely, the Mavs will continue their winning ways.