Brandan Wright has proven to be a winning piece for the Mavericks this season.
The proof: The Mavs are 18-10 when Wright plays at least 20 minutes. That includes a 7-4 record in games that Dirk Nowitzki missed.
Wright, who was a fringe rotation player for much of the season because of Rick Carlisle’s concerns about his rebounding, averaged 11.8 points on 61.4 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25 minutes during those 28 games.
Wright’s production and the Mavs’ success with him playing significant minutes raise two questions: 1) Should Carlisle have given him consistent minutes all season? 2) What kind of offer should the Mavs make him as a free agent this summer?
“To me, this is not a time to be analyzing the entire year or the future,” Carlisle told reporters Tuesday. “We need to stay in the now. We need Brandan to do what he does, which is give us activity, give us a slippery body, play above the rim, give us some length defensively with shot blocking and position defense. He’s one important puzzle piece to our collective group.”
We should note our hesitance to criticize Carlisle’s rotation decisions. Call it the Roddy B. effect. Remember when Carlisle was ripped for not playing rookie sensation Rodrigue Beaubois enough? We discovered later that a big part of the reason Beaubois was so successful in a limited role was because Carlisle did a masterful job of picking and choosing the best matchups for him to play.
That very well could be the case as well with the slender Wright, who has struggled recently against the big front lines of the Pacers, Lakers and Jazz. However, there are also examples of Wright playing well against big centers, such as the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the Rockets’ Omer Asik and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
Carlisle has at least reached the point of playing Wright every night and determining his minutes based on his performance. That’s a significant step for a player who routinely was a DNP-CD or garbage-time guy during the middle of the season. And it's been a major benefit to the Mavs, who are 12-6 since Wright rejoined the rotation on a permanent basis, with him averaging 12.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 24.3 minutes per game in that span.
Regarding Wright’s worth in free agency, he’s certainly made himself some money in the last month, seizing the opportunity of getting regular minutes again. He’s displayed the athleticism and touch around the basket that made him the eighth overall pick of the 2007 draft. Teams will be concerned about the durability of Wright, whose 59 games played this season are by far a game high, but there tends to be a market for athletic frontcourt players.
Case in point: Ex-Mavs backup center Ian Mahinmi, who signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Pacers last summer. Considering that Wright is a much better scorer and shot blocker and a comparable rebounder, it’s not too difficult to envision him getting that kind of deal.
Would it be worth it to the Mavs to pay Wright that kind of money? It’s not too steep of a price to pay for a winning piece.