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Season in Review: Brandan Wright’s Memphis blues

What looked like a perfect match came to a disappointing season in Wright’s third season.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Check out previous entries in our Season in Review series here.

Brandan Wright 2017-18 Stats

G MIN/G Pts/G FG% PER
G MIN/G Pts/G FG% PER
27 13.6 5.0 0.576 19.3
Per Basketball Reference
Shot profile; stats via NBA.com/stats

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Brandan Wright. When the Tennessee native signed with the Grizzlies on a reasonable 3-year/$17 million deal in the 2015 offseason, it was with the expectation that he would have a role in the rotation, if not in the starting lineup.

Wright’s first season was undone by injury, his second by a combination of injury and awkward fit. The latter of those prompted frustrated comments from a candid Wright in last season’s interviews after he played just 12 minutes in the team’s six-game series against the Spurs.

But if Grizzlies fans were hoping Wright would imitate his post-Maverick counterpart—see Carter, Vince—and perform in the third year of his contract, their faith was misplaced. Like the team, Wright’s 2017-18 season was quickly derailed by injuries. When he became a veteran player on a team in tank mode trying to figure out what they had in their young players, he was mercifully bought out and allowed to sign with a contender, where he might be able to carve out a niche as a useful bench player. Wright managed to do just that; on February 12, he signed with the Rockets.

Best Game:

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

November 11, 2017 at LA Clippers

On a night where the Grizzlies were still in contention for a playoff spot and Mike Conley was still playing over 30 minutes a night, Wright helped the Grizzlies pick up a big win in Los Angeles against the new-look, Chris Paul-less Clippers to stop a two-game skid.

(A two-game skid seems like nothing after this season, by the way. But I digress.)

On a night where the Grizzlies bench outscored that of the Clippers 55-22, Wright pitched in 13 points, 9 boards, and an impressive 4 blocks. The Grizzlies walked away with a 9-point win, and Wright walked away with what many hoped would be a stepping stone for an increased role off the bench.

Worst Moment:

Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Just as had happened before, Wright succumbed to poor injury luck. A groin injury kept him out for most of December. From the end of November to his buyout in February, Wright played in just 12 games for the Grizzlies, failing to record more than 8 points in any contest.

Wright’s buyout was the last move in what had originally looked to be a perfect match. Wright had come to the Grizzlies because Tennessee was home, and because he provided specialized rim running ability and an intriguing fit alongside what eventually became a three-point shooting Gasol.

Instead, Wright couldn’t stay healthy, and when he was healthy the Grizzlies muddled Wright’s fit by moving Zach Randolph to the bench (2016-17) and tanking (2017-18). Buying Wright out was the only logical conclusion to the story. When he wasn’t traded, it made no sense to let him languish on the bench. The Grizzlies at least did right by the player, which was more than they could be said for some of their other players.

Ways to Improve:

Brandan Wright will never be a versatile offensive player, a stretch five who spaces the floor. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t provide value to an NBA team. He is what he is. At this point, the only ability that Wright can improve is his availability. Over his three seasons in Memphis, Wright played just 67 games, not even a full season’s worth.

Overall Grade:

It’d be easy to fail Wright for missing so many games, but that feels a little unfair. Wright couldn’t stay healthy, but the team didn’t put him in the best situation to succeed, either. The signing of Wright looked like an incredible deal back in 2015. Three years later, it feels like little more than a waste of $17 million.

Grade: Incomplete

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