Memphis Grizzlies: The Underrated Importance of Brandan Wright

Feb 13, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandan Wright (34) puts up a shot against Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris (12) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandan Wright (34) puts up a shot against Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris (12) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports /

After missing lots of action in his first two seasons, Brandan Wright has quickly proven that he’s an important piece in Memphis Grizzlies’ title quest.

Going into the season, the casual fan probably saw “Brandan Wright” on the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster and scratched their heads. The die-hard fanatics like you and me were thinking if Brandan Wright would ever contribute for the Grizzlies.

That answer is a quick “yes.”

As we’re approaching the playoffs, if Wright isn’t in the Grizzlies’ plans, then we may see yet another early exit.

Must Read: All-Star Break Review: Brandan Wright

Original Purpose

Grizzlies originally sought after Brandan Wright to replace Kosta Koufos. However, from the looks of it, he may be an upgrade. When the Grizzlies signed him to a 3-year, $18M contract,’s Rob Mahoney had some high hopes:

"Memphis already had a terrific backup big last year in Kosta Koufos. Never, though, have the Grizzlies had a player who can glide through the lane to catch and finish at such a wide variety of angles as Wright. This will be a departure from what the Grizzlies have known and from what Grizzlies opponents have known of them.Wright, if nothing else, has a kinetic quality to his game that could help jolt Memphis out of its lulls. He’s still poised to be more of a per-minute wonder with the Grizzlies than a heavy lifter, set for the 18-20 minutes a night that have become his standard. Even in those relatively short bursts, Wright can make a profound difference on the game by running the floor (another point of differentiation from, say, Randolph), extending vertically to swat away shots, and electrifying the offense with his athleticism. A little dynamism can go a long way."

There was plenty of reason for optimism. Mahoney even gave this signing an “A+.” The Grizzlies had a change-of-pace big man who could give the aging Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph more rest. However, they had to call an audible.

Brandan Wright sat all but 12 games last season and the first 49 games in this one due

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to ankle/knee issues.

Now that he’s back, Wright is making up for lost time, proving that he can be a valuable contributor on this team.

Above the Rim Threat

For the first time since the days of the “Stro Show,” the Memphis Grizzlies have a center that’s a lob threat.

Brandan Wright gives Mike Conley a solid pick-and-roll lob threat. In addition, Randolph and Gasol have someone to work the high-low with.

As LaMarcus Aldridge attempts to help off the Conley drive, the Spurs are left absolutely hopeless as Wright is ready for the lob. Because of Conley’s elite ability to finish at the rim, he’ll continue to throw it up to his boy, B-Wright, and turn Memphis into “Lob City.”

Even as the Nets play off of Chandler Parsons, it doesn’t matter for the Grizzlies. Because of Wright’s long arms and his ups, you could essentially throw it up, and he’ll finish regardless.

Finishing Around the Rim

Brandan Wright is one of the best in the league at finishing in the paint. For his career, he’s shooting 60.7 percent. Yes, for his career. Granted, it helps that 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts are within 10 feet. However, it shows that Wright can finish once he’s in the paint.

Not even a low pass or a bobble affects this shot. Wright displays an effortless, feathery touch around the rim that’s difficult to block.

Pick-and-Roll Defense

The most intriguing aspect of Wright’s game is his defensive versatility. He uses his size, length and speed to harass ball-handlers on defensive switches, something that’s a weakness for Gasol and Randolph.

As he switches onto Thompson, he’s able to recover to guard his original man, Draymond Green. Had it not been for Wright, the Warriors would’ve gotten a basket one way or another from one of the deadliest playmakers in basketball.

Any other night, and this would’ve been another perfectly-executed pass by Ricky Rubio for a score. As Toney Douglas was getting beat on the pick-and-roll, Wright used his length to force a turnover and to prevent an easy two points.

Rim Protection

The Memphis Grizzlies rank just 20th in the league in blocks per game (5.1). Brandan Wright should solve that issue. Even though he only averages a block a game for his career, his rim protection is a major key for this team.

Opposing defenses have been exposing Randolph on the perimeter. With Wright, their perimeter defense improves. Even though his opponent went past him, he still has the ability to recover and block the shot.

Though Toney Douglas’ man blew past him (again), Wright was able to swat his shot away without leaving his matchup. The block forced the Suns to restart their entire possession. These kinds of plays have been killers for the Grizzlies lately. With Wright at the helm, their interior defense will hopefully improve.

Related Story: Grizz Need Interior D to Improve

Playoff Impact

Brandan Wright’s ability to change the game in multiple facets is a major key for the Grizzlies. Unlike Zach Randolph, he isn’t a defensive liability. He has more bounce than Marc Gasol. His experience may prove to be more valuable when choosing between him and JaMychal Green in crunch-time.

As the league is evolving and becoming quicker, would it be wise to give Wright more minutes than Randolph.

After receiving the starting nod against the Nets, it’s clear that Fizdale sees a lot in Wright.

Hopefully, he makes the “Wright” choice and makes him a key part in the Memphis Grizzlies’ quest for an NBA championship.

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