HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The Dallas Mavericks love Brandan Wright. Let’s just get that out there. He’s a bright, affable kid blessed with natural athletic ability and he works hard, too. And those ridiculously lengthy arms and legs of his must be made of rubber. He can swat shots from anywhere and leaps through the roof as if launched by a trampoline.
So far he’s been impressive offensively and defending in the paint, delivering on promise he showed in glimpses last season, his first in Dallas after basically being signed off the trash heap, a former lottery pick subdued by injuries and impatience at Golden State and then, perhaps, a blind eye by the Nets during a brief stint.
The slender, 6-foot-10 Wright, a power forward-center hybrid for Dallas, has started both games in the absence of injured 7-footers Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, voids that turned an already mediocre rebounding team into a wretched one.
So first the good news regarding Wright: He’s blocked five shots and piled up 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting, making him the club’s second leading-scorer behind point guard Darren Collison.
Now for the bad news: Wright, nearly a full foot taller than Collison, has exactly two more rebounds, leaving the board burden mostly to Elton Brand (9.0 rebounds a game) and small forward Shawn Marion (who led Dallas in rebounding last season and is doing it again at 10 a game).
In Wednesday’s 113-94 loss at the Utah Jazz, Wright had three rebounds in 26 minutes and Dallas was crushed on the boards 61-40. The Mavs allowed 20 offensive rebounds resulting in 21 second-chance Jazz points. That’s an atrocious figure if you’re Dallas and one that won’t win many ballgames.
Wright has eight boards in 45 minutes on the floor, a statistic that might plant the majority of power forwards and centers in the league on the bench more often than not. Considering the Mavs’ injuries and Wright’s production both offensively and as an interior defender, it’s not an option.
That’s the Brandan Wright conundrum. You love his game, but a player standing 6-10 has to pound the glass, and particularly so in the Mavs’ precarious injury state — they’re desperate for rebounders.
Wright spent much of the offseason attempting to bulk up, and if he were capable of a more consistent physical presence, he probably would have played more minutes in the first two games. Yet, that was also his story last season. So impressive grabbing and throwing down alley-oop passes and blocking shots, he couldn’t stay on the floor in the playoff sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged 1.3 rebounds in 6.8 minutes a game.
The Mavs do love Wright. But he’d do himself — and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle — a great service by making rebounding a top priority. It’s his best route to carving out a consistent role in the rotation once Kaman and then Nowitzki return to action.