NBA

Brandan Wright Excited to Help Memphis Push for the Playoffs

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Brandan Wright’s NBA career has been extremely consistent when it comes to production on the court. When he plays, he’s a true difference-maker. A versatile scorer who’s incredibly efficient in the post, Wright’s unique size and skill set make him a tough matchup for almost any forward in the league.

Coming out of high school, Wright was one of the highest ranked players nationally and he would continue that trend in college. He decided to attend the University of North Carolina where he would become one of the most effective freshman basketball players in the ACC. His first and only year at UNC, Wright averaged 14.7 points on 64.6 percent field goal shooting (an ACC freshman record) while also producing 6.2 rebounds, one assist and 1.76 blocks per game.

Wright decided to forgo his sophomore season to declare for the 2007 NBA Draft. With teams hungry for an efficient big man who could provide a lot of versatility on both ends of the floor, Wright ended up shooting up the draft boards and was eventually picked eighth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. However, he was soon after moved in a draft-day trade to the Golden State Warriors.

Wright’s journey continued with the Warriors where he’d learn a lot under veteran head coach Don Nelson.

“I think it was the end of my rookie year when I was starting to stress,” Wright told Basketball Insiders. “Coach Nelson pulled me to the side and he said ‘I’ve been watching a lot of film of you from college. Every time you get into the paint, I want you to shoot the ball.’ That kind of stuck with me for a long time and now, five or six years later, I’m shooting 70 percent in two or three seasons. He said ‘when you touch that paint, shoot the ball,’ and I just rolled with it. Now, it’s been the strength of my career.”

Wright would end up being traded to the New Jersey Nets. After spending around three months with the Nets, he went on to sign with the Dallas Mavericks where he posted the team’s highest field goal percentage in his first season (2011-2012). From there, Wright would be shipped off to the Boston Celtics and then the Phoenix Suns during the 2014-15 campaign.

After that, Wright would become a free-agent, where he’d sign a three-year, $17.1 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies back in 2015. But unfortunately, since the signing took place, Wright has only managed to appear in 12 games in a Grizzlies uniform.

After some post-surgery tibial tendinitis, Wright had been out for a number of months dating back to last season. But according to Wright, his rehab is progressing and he’s started to run on the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill. A positive sign of things to come for the 28-year old who feels like he has many NBA years ahead of him.

“The biggest thing is that I’m going to surprise a lot of people,” Wright told Basketball Insiders. “The Memphis fans haven’t really seen me play that much besides when I played for Dallas when we came here twice a year to play. So, I’m excited to get out there on the court and show them what I can do. I can play above the rim, I think I can guard pretty much anyone on the court, block a lot of shots, get up and down the floor really fast. Speed, athletic ability are the big things in my game and, like you said, I don’t think we really have anyone [that is like me]. JaMychal Green and Jarell Martin, they possess those types of skills, but I’m much taller and I’m much longer than those guys. So I think I bring an aspect that we don’t have and I think it’s going to be very exciting when I get out there. I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people with what I can do.”

Wright’s role with this team is undetermined at this point because he’s still working to get healthy. But a lot has changed since Wright was last on the court, including the hiring of a new head coach. Wright spoke about the differences between former coach Dave Joerger and current coach David Fizdale.

“Coach Joerger, he was a pretty good X’s and O’s guy,” Wright told Basketball Insiders. “He was pretty straight forward overall, I thought he was a real solid coach. Obviously, he had other opportunities he wanted to explore, he didn’t want to be in Memphis and he took advantage of that. But I had no issues with anything like that, I thought he was a solid coach. But, I think coach Fizdale has brought a totally different vibe. I think he’s supported more togetherness, not only on the court but off the court. He wants families to be together, he wants it to be close knit because he always talks about it takes all that stuff to win a championship. He’s had an opportunity to win two championships in Miami and he’s seen both sides of it. He’s seen where everything was good and they won a championship. He’s seen, in that last year, where everything was going separate ways and they got blown off the court by the Spurs. He’s seen all of that and he just wants us to come together. He’s seen what it takes and, the biggest thing about him is, I think he can instill confidence in a lot of us. He came here and told us ‘I had plenty of opportunities in the past of head coaching jobs I could have taken. When this job came open, it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about any of those things. I looked at the current roster and said I can work with these guys, I think these guys can win big for us.'”

For Wright, he’s getting closer to returning and the Grizzlies have a good chance to make the playoffs. When Wright returns, he knows he’ll be put in a position to be successful and help the Grizzlies.

“Just, when you’re out and you’re injured, you’re able to see the game in a different view,” Wright said. “You’re always able to learn more. I think with me being out, I’m able to see where I can really help the team, the things I could do to help elevate us. We’ve had a great start thus far, we’ve had a little bump in recent games. We won last night, but we recently had lost three in a row and I think four out of five before that. But, you learn so much, you look forward to getting out there and doing whatever it takes to help your team win.”

The dynamic of adding Wright into this team gives the Grizzlies a lot of promise moving forward. The Grizzlies rank dead last in field goal percentage and Wright’s efficiency will certainly help the team in that area. His career average of 60.8 percent shooting from the field would be good for first among active Grizzlies’ players this season. Not only that, but his diverse offensive skill set should draw opponents’ attention and open up the paint for guys like Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and others.

Wright’s main focus is getting back onto the court, but he has several goals in mind for this team.

“Obviously, you just want to give [the fans] a championship, that’s the easy answer,” Wright said. “But, the honest truth is, I just want all of our guys to be healthy at the same time. We’ve struggled the last couple of years with health. We had some bruises here, we hadn’t had a complete team yet. The championship, that’s a given, that’s what we all strive for, that’s what we all play for. But we just want to give the fans and this organization a good, clean, bill of health. You’re going to get knocked up every now and then, bruises here and there, whatever bumps, and guys are going to miss time. But, hopefully, we just come together and have a nice little stretch where we have a complete team and we can really show this league what we can do.”

Wright sounds genuinely excited to come back and play. It’s clear that he is anxious to get back onto the court and start helping his team in their push to the playoffs.

“I’m just trying my hardest to get back,” Wright said. “I think the biggest thing for the Memphis fans who haven’t seen me play yet is they’re going to be thoroughly surprised. When I get back on the court and I get rolling, they’ll see what I can do for this team. I’m just excited. I get real anxious sitting at home, I can’t even sleep at night sometimes. I’m just thinking about the things I can do for this team to help it succeed. I think it’s going to be real pleasant. I think it’s just going to be great.”

While Wright’s journey hasn’t been perfect due to injuries and setbacks, he’s taken that experience as a chance to evaluate his team and his potential role in it. Now, it seems like he’ll soon be ready to help Memphis make a deep postseason run. With a new coach, veteran core and improved depth, the Grizzlies may be able to surprise some people as they build on their early season success.

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About Oliver Maroney

Oliver Maroney

Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.

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