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Under the Rug: Investigating Dorell Wright

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This is probably old news if you supplement your Straight Outta Vancouver coverage with everything else out there, but a few days ago the Memphis Commercial Appeal noted that the Grizzlies newest trade target might be Dorrell Wright of the Miami Heat.

To give him his fair dues, Sham of ShamSports called this deal out even prior to the rumors, noting that shedding Wright's salary would put the Heat below the luxury tax and, thus, they'll want to trade him for as little as possible. Sham's vision of this trade is Memphis using it's salary cap room to secure an asset (namely, New Orleans's 2nd round selection that the Heat currently own.)

That being said, the Commercial Appeal is certainly telling a very different story:

Wright, a 6-9 forward, is earning $2.9 million this season. A versatile and energetic player, Wright is seen as expendable only because the Heat is unlikely to be in a position to re-sign him this summer. (...)

It's no secret that the Griz have been shopping one or more of their three 2010 first-round draft picks. (...)

In his fifth year, Wright is a preps-to-pros prospect the Heat selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 2004 NBA draft. He would fit the Grizzlies' expressed desire to add length, shooting and defense on the perimeter.

So who's the real Dorell Wright? A salary dump, or a highly valuable asset that will provide a boost to the Grizzlies offensively challenged bench?

Dorell Wright was drafted straight out of high-school in 2004, which was the second-to-last draft allowing players to enter the NBA prior to the age of 19. His averages of almost 30 points, 14 boards, and 5 blocks were enough to get the Heat to draft him #19 overall that year.

Wright's game is, perhaps, most comparable to Tracy McGrady. He is primarily a slashing swingman with better than adequate handles and fantastic size at 6 foot 9 inches. His basketball skills are, largely, first rate, though his adjustment to the NBA game has been tenuous at best.

Wright has been injured on-and-off throughout his 5 seasons in the NBA, playing in just 3, 20, 66, 44, and 6 games last season. When he has played, Wright's contributions have been largely limited. His best season by far was during Miami's terrible 15 win campaign, when he averaged 8 points, 5 boards, 1.5 assists, and around one block and one steal in 25 minutes in the 44 games he was able to start in.

The combination of missing tons of time with near-chronic injuries and inexperience, Wright had only seriously played basketball for 3 years prior to being drafted, has made Dorell Wright just as much of an enigma today as he was coming into the league.

Playing in 33 of Miami's 40 games this season, Dorell is averaging 5 points, 3 rebounds, and just over 1 assist per game. Recently, however, he's played much more and better, averaging around 20 minutes per game in December and January and closer to 7 points and 4 boards.

Wright doesn't seem to be quite the athlete he once was, as he used to be viewed as similar to fellow 2004 draftee Josh Smith in explosiveness, but he has transformed into a much better perimeter player. This season Wright is hitting about a third of his three-pointers but shoots a decent number of jumpers, accounting for 67% of his shots, at a decent .433 eFG%. 

For comparison, a pure slasher like Gerald Wallace shoots jumpers only 39% of the time. Stephen Jackson has a similar shot distribution though he's noticeably less efficient. Corey Maggette is a similar player, albeit shooting a few less jumpers at 54%, but is more efficient on the inside.

The most apt comparison to Wright, offensively at least, is probably Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko also shoots a decently large number of jumpers at around .45 eFG%, dunks on about 10% of his shots and is also primarily a finisher, being assisted on around 75% of his makes. This seems to make sense, as Kirilenko has a similar athletic profile, and both have the luxury of relying on their extremely gifted, and high usage, teammates (Dwayne Wade and Deron Williams) to create offense for them.

Which begs to ask the question, how well would Dorell Wright fit with the Memphis Grizzlies? Honestly, it would probably be a bit of a shock for the inexperienced forward. Life without Wade, and presumably being the first or second option on offense, is just not the same as playing with the Olympian. Wright might be a great match with pass-first guard Jamaal Tinsley, perhaps more so than Sam Young, who prefers to create his own shot.

Or Sam Young might be creating his own shot because that's just the way the Grizzlies's bench runs its offense, which would mean that Dorell Wright wouldn't exactly be in the best environment for his talents. In that case it seems feasible that Wright's .511 eFG% could quickly fall in line with Sam's .473 eFG%.

Still with Wright as an expiring contract, and likely easily re-signed if the Grizzlies were interested, it seems like he would at least be valuable enough to acquire with a 2nd round pick or, depending on other offers, for the Lakers 1st round pick that the Grizzlies hold.

Grabbing Dorell Wright, who's athletic potential would provide an interesting foil for the 24 year old, 4-year college player Sam Young, does seem to be a sensible move for the Grizzlies. At $2.9 million for just this season, Wright is cheap for a competent 6th man. And because he was drafted out of high school, he has the potential to both grow with this young team while giving some experience to the bench.