The Phoenix Suns acquired backup C Brandan Wright on Friday, completing a transaction that appeared destined ever since the Rajon Rondo trade.
"We have had an interest in him for quite some time," Suns President of Bball Ops Lon Babby said yesterday, a sentiment echoed by GM Ryan McDonough.
Wright was sent to Boston in that trade, a team that is rebuilding and never intended to keep Wright, 27, long term.
McDonough worked in Boston his entire career before joining the Suns, and has extra draft picks to use as bait. The Suns available cap space and the Minnesota protected pick, now likely second rounders in 2016 and 2017, were a perfect payment for a backup C like Wright.
Brandan Wright has profiled as a perfect backup center for the Phoenix Suns for his entire career.
"Brandan Wright was probably my favorite Maverick not named Dirk," said Rebecca Lawson of SBNation's MavsMoneyball last night. "And he was a big fan favorite in Dallas. He's a great fit with the Suns, and y'all are going to have a blast watching him play. I know I always did."
Wright was rumored to be included in the ill-fated Suns-Golden State trade back in 2009, in which the Suns were to send Amare Stoudemire to the Warriors in exchange for Wright and the draft rights to Stephen Curry, that was nixed by Don Nelson once he came to his sense and realized Curry was too good to trade.
Suns then-GM/President Steve Kerr still laments that loss, at least until last summer when he took the head coaching job in Golden State in part to have the privilege to coach Curry.
Wright never met his potential in Golden State, experiencing a number of shoulder issues and coaching turnover. He was also miscast as a power forward there.
He eventually made his way to the Dallas Mavericks where he found health and a niche as an elite shot blocker and pick-and-roll finisher as a backup center off the bench for the Mavericks, despite his thin (220 pound) frame.
Quick and dirty profile
"The way Dallas played last year is somewhat similar to what we play, being in the open court and pick-and-rolls," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said to Paul Coro yesterday. "Brandan does a great job of rolling to the basket and catching a ball and either dunking it or he's got the little jump hooks he can shoot. We just think that adding another big to our mix is going to help us and give us other options."
For Suns fans, he is Steven Hunter with scoring ability. Like Hunter, Wright is extremely long (7'4" wing span), reed-thin, blocks shots like crazy and runs the floor on the break.
Unlike Hunter, Wright can also score in the paint with a variety of athletic moves either on his own or as recipient of the pick-and-roll pass or lob.
Here's a quick youtube video:
Where he fits
Wright is not a floor-spacing power forward despite his physical stature at 6'9", 220 pounds. He is best as a center who can defend the rim, run the floor and finish pick-and-rolls. The Suns succeeded with an undersized center for years - Amare Stoudemire - so pick your jaw up off the floor now.
He won't take Alex Len's minutes. While Wright has more experience and more self-awareness of his skills and limitations, he's nowhere near Len's talent level and size. Len will remain the most important center on the team.
Wright slots mostly into Miles Plumlee's minutes. At the least, they really cannot share the floor together because each needs to stay near the rim on offense.
He's slightly worse at rebounding than Plumlee and cannot defend the biggest NBA centers in the post, but is a much better offensive option and shotblocker than Plumlee.
He's a fantasy player's fantasy on a per-minute basis. If you're looking for a great second or third center, you can't go wrong with Brandan Wright.
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Brandan Wright or any other Suns player against the Grizzlies, or if you'd prefer you can bet on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol putting up great numbers.
Dude blocks shots. He's in the league's top five shot blockers per minute this year, right alongside his teammate at center Alex Len.
Watch a quick video of all of his blocks in 2013-14 for the Mavericks. You'll see some highlights against the Suns in there.
Good offensive option in the paint
Wright has made 72% of his shots this year and 68% last year. He is ultra-efficient and has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop.
Some notes about Brandan Wright's game that may seem obvious at first, but are really important: he's not a good post player, he's very good in transition, and he's really, really, really good at scoring as the roll man in Pick and Roll situations, on cuts, and off of offensive rebounds.
Wright doesn't shoot a lot of jumpers, which is why he best profiles as a center - or at least, the only guy in the paint, if you want spacing.
But what he brings to the Suns that Miles Plumlee does not bring is a great feel for scoring at the rim off a variety of moves.
"He has some of the easiest, most graceful athleticism you'll ever see," said Tim Cato, managing editor of MavsMoneyball. "And it makes him one of the most dangerous players on the roll in the NBA."
The Suns don't have many players who roll well to the hoop, which is one reason the roll option doesn't rate any higher than 5% of the time in the Suns offense. The Suns big men are either too inexperienced (Len), foot-handed (Plumlee) or better in the pick-and-pop (Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Channing Frye, etc.).
For the first time since Amare Stoudemire, the Suns will have a talented pick-and-roll finisher.
"I've asked several Dallas guards." Cato said. "And they all told me it's nearly impossible to overthrow him on alley oops and lob passes. He has excellent touch, too - he can hit the soft layup and he has a short turnaround hook shot he can use for particularly difficult finishes. Mostly, though, he just jumps over the entire defense, which is why he was shooting nearly 75 percent overall prior to his trade to Boston."
The highlights video above shows several examples of Wright's scoring ability.
"Throw him in a pick-and-roll with any of the Phoenix guards," Cato said. "And even if he isn't free for a lob or pocket pass, watch the 3-point shooters around him open up for a kickout pass because their defender had to crash down into the lane."
Spacing, spacing, spacing.
The biggest reason for Wright's off-the-charts offensive efficiency," Lawson said. "Is that Rick Carlisle put him in a system and position to succeed. And HE knows his limitations. He just isn't going to take a shot that he can't make, basically.
So why doesn't he start and play 35 minutes a game?
Lacks strength in post
Wright just doesn't have enough sand in the bucket to defend the post. He's only 220 pounds after three hours in a Vegas buffet, so he can't hold his ground against the biggest boys.
"He's 6-foot-11 but gives up at least 20 pounds to most centers," Cato said. "He can usually make it work off the bench against second team big men, but he just gets overpowered against many of the Western Conference behemoths - Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and the like. As you would imagine, this causes his man-on-man defense and rebounding to suffer. His athleticism makes him a good weak side shot blocker, but he'll probably never be a starting center or play more than 30 minutes because of his limitations."
Average rebounder, at best
Brandan Wright won't solve any of the Suns' rebounding problems. In fact, his rebound rate is lower than Miles Plumlee's (even this year) and barely ahead of P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris overall.
Don't expect more than four rebounds per 18-20 minutes from him. He excels at rebounding on the offensive end, while his defensive board prowess is limited.
"He has gotten a little better on defense and with rebounding over the past season and a half," Lawson said. "Still not great, but better -- which I think helped make him an absolutely essential piece in Dallas' rotations before the trade. Whereas, he was trying to find his spot in the rotation here and there last year. So he does learn and improve."
Wright will score, rain down a lot of dunks and produce highlight blocks.
But he's not just a highlight monger. He will be uber-efficient when he's on the floor.
"Wright stays within himself offensively," Cato said. "Holding his shots attempts to quality looks in the lane. Above all, Wright is an incredibly fun to watch player who is lethal in the right role."
That role is backup center who can have games that make you want him to the be the starter.
"When I say my first reaction to the Rajon Rondo trade was ‘no' because I didn't want to lose Brandan Wright, I think that shows how highly I think of him." --Cato
If you want to read more on Brandan Wright, here's a great longread written last year at MavsMoneyball: Understanding Brandan Wright. You'll know SO MUCH MORE about Wright, and its all good.
We got lucky here, Suns fans. Wright isn't the second coming, but he's going to fit on this team like a glove.
The expectation is that he will be in a Suns uniform tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.