Set to test the market alongside a huge crop of free agent centers on July 1, the Indiana Pacers are expected to show interest in Brandan Wright, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:
Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing in at 205 pounds, Wright's svelte frame makes him the perfect fit for a team looking to get up and down the court, but it also makes him a bit of a defensive liability against teams with bigger front lines. The model of offensive efficiency, the former Dallas Maverick is virtually tailored made for Larry Bird's uptempo vision for the 2015-16 Pacers.
Stylistic fit aside, Indiana's rumored pursuit of the free agent big man would mean adding to an already crowded and increasingly perplexing front court. Having just selected Myles Turner out of the University of Texas and with Ian Mahinmi and Roy Hibbert, presumably, still in the mix, adding yet another big body seems redundant independent of a trade.
While his high-flying act might be a fit for the new look Pacers, the team's interior defense would most assuredly experience a drop-off from prior years. Would acquiring the rim runner be worth sacrificing rim protection?
Let's take a look at the numbers.
2 Numbers to Like:
148: Offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) when Brandan Wright was on the floor for the Dallas Mavericks. This number is astoundingly good. No player's offensive rating on Indiana's roster even cracked 120 last season. Wright thrives in the open court, either running straight to the rim or finishing as the roll man (56.4%), where he places in the 71st percentile league wide.
78.4: Wright's field goal percentage at the rim last season. The athletic big man is at his best when paired next to a guard capable of relentlessly penetrating the lane (...ahem, Slash Brothers). When playing alongside an aggressive driver, opposing defenses are forced to make a lightning quick and agonizing decision: Send help to cut off the guard's driving lane or stay at home on the big. The result? Either an easy lay-up for the driver or a surefire lob leading to a dunk for Wright.
2 Numbers to Make you Wary:
57.6: Wright's percentile when his post-up defense is ranked against the rest of the league, per the NBA's Play Type data. There was a reason Dallas moved to re-acquire Tyson Chandler last summer. The Mavericks needed a defensive anchor because Brandon Wright is not one (at least not alongside Dirk Nowitzki). Due to his lack of size, Wright struggles to hold his own against stronger forwards and centers. Though he is a respectable shot blocker (1.3 blocks per game), the undersized center still routinely finds himself being attacked at the rim against bigger lineups.
6-9: Wright's height, per basketball-reference. Paul George also stands at 6-foot-9. If the free agent center is utilized, as he should be, as a spark off the bench, playing George spot minutes at stretch-four becomes a dicey proposition. In order for the Pacers to be successful utilizing such a diminutive front line, Wright and George would have to prove that the pace and space each respectively provide would be more valuable than the points they would most assuredly give up against taller tandems.
While these four stats are informative, perhaps the most telling number with regard to the prospect of pursuing Brandan Wright has nothing to do with the free agent center himself and everything to do with the Indiana Pacers:
3: The number of centers already on the Blue & Gold's roster. Though small in stature, Wright's game demands that he play near the rim, which means he too, should he be wooed, would be joining the Pacers as a center. While the superb finisher would put the "pace" back in Pacers, his addition would likely bring added drama to a presumably already dramatic and progressively confounding front court.
Would Wright's offense warrant more minutes than the defensive prowess of Hibbert or Mahinmi?
Would it be worth it to short change the raw, developing talent of supposed stretch shooter Myles Turner in favor of someone seemingly more capable of contributing to an uptempo style?
There is no doubt that the efficient big man is a stylistic fit for what the Pacers claim they want to be next season, but adding him (potentially at the cost of interior defense) only makes sense if it is a precursor for the team subtracting someone else.