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Memphis Grizzlies 2016-2017 Player Grades: Brandan Wright

If healthy, Brandan Wright is a fantastic back-up center for the Grizzlies. But that’s a big if.

NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Brandan Wright 2016-2017

Brandan Wright 2016-2017
Brandan Wright 2016-2017
Points per Game 6.8
Rebounds per Game 2.8
Blocks per Game 0.7
PER 18.5
REB% 10%
BLK% 4.3
True Shooting% 0.628
On-Off per 100 4

Another year, another injury-filled season for Brandan Wright.

He signed a 3 year $17.2 Million contract after the 2014-15 season. At the time it looked like a bargain and the salary cap spike ever since makes it look even better, financially.

Brandan Wright has had injury issues since coming to Memphis, but he’s also had injury concerns in the past. He’s only played 60+ games twice in his 8-year NBA career, and has only checked in for 40 games in the last 2 seasons for the Grizzlies. 12 games in 2015-16, 28 in 2016-17.

But when he’s been available, he’s been productive. His role this season was, when healthy, to provide a spell for Memphis’ rotation of starting big men (Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and JaMychal Green). The only other players on the roster to provide bench minutes in that spot are Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin, two players who aren’t currently good enough to contribute in the NBA.

What Wright provides, though, is his complement to Memphis’ starters. Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green can both be solid rebounders, but their games have started to spread away from the basket as they stretch the floor. Brandan Wright can play down low to give the team an offensive rebounder when Gasol and/or Green are on the perimeter.

Here’s how Wright’s production and play graded out in the 2016-17 season.

Strengths:

Brandan Wright really thrived in the pick-and-roll game. Brandan Wright is a bouncy athlete that can really jump and it shows on all those lobs he throws down. According to NBA’s play tracking, Brandan Wright scored 1.23 Points per Possession (equal to a 123.0 Offensive Rating) on pick-and-rolls as the roll man. A number in the 87th percentile according to NBA.com.

This is an important strength for Wright. The Grizzlies rely on a lot of pick-and-roll/pop between Conley and Gasol with them on the floor together, so when Gasol comes off the floor Wright can easily slide into Marc’s role and keep some sort of continuity.

Wright is also the best rim protector we have on the bench. Zach Randolph does not have the athleticism to challenge drivers and Deyonta Davis wasn’t able to crack the rotation. So when Wright was available, he was instantly the best rim protector available not named Marc Gasol. If he had played enough minutes to qualify as a league leader, he would have been top-10 BLK%, tied with DeAndre Jordan and above Serge Ibaka.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

His athleticism and long arms play a factor, but he’s also a really smart defender. He blocks with his hands instead of his arms which cuts down on fouls by not hacking the opponent’s arms. Here are two great examples of this.

In the first play, Brandan Wright is playing from behind LaMarcus Aldridge. Any excess contact will probably be called considering Wright is behind LMA, but Wright just uses his hand to block Aldridge and keeps it clean.

In this second play, Wright gives Enes Kanter space while Zach Randolph is trailing. As Kanter gets to the restricted area for the layup, Wright leaps up and traps the ball against the backboard with his hand. Very close to committing a foul, but instead comes away with a block.

Ways to Improve:

Brandan Wright’s durability has been a problem his entire career and continued to Memphis. The cliche saying that “the best ability is availability” makes me want to roll my eyes thinking about LeBron’s or Kevin Durant’s actual ability. But with players like Brandan Wright, it’s a black eye on his contributions.

Yes, when Wright is available he’s a pretty good backup center that can spell Marc Gasol 15-20 minutes a game when needed. But Wright has barely been available the last two seasons as he continues to fight knee and ankle issues.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Brandan can’t just will himself a clean bill of health and a guaranteed 82 games in 2017-18, so it’s hard to tell a grown person to “improve” by doing so. But it would go a long way to providing some rest to Marc Gasol and giving our second unit another dimension offensively and defensively.

Final Grade: C+

Brandan Wright had a good 28 game stretch, but not a good season. It’s hard to judge a player after playing just 447 minutes all year, in limited time he looked to come into his role.

If Wright can put together similar production for 60 or more games, the Grizzlies will be cooking with gas with their second unit. But for his small sample size, I’m willing to give him a C+ for the season. If Wright had played the way he did for the whole season, I would have bumped him up a whole letter grade. Alas, he did not, so a C+ it is.