Lost in the well-deserved euphoria about the Deron Williams acquisition, is the fact the Nets obtained another potential “piece” for their future core – at least a role playing piece – in Golden State’s Brandan Wright, who was acquired, along with Dan Gadzuric for Troy Murphy and a second round draft pick.
In his one and only year at UNC, Wright was a standout, averaging 14.7 points on 65 percent shooting, including 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. The field goal percentage was an ACC record for a freshman. Despite his height and lanky build, Wright was such a prospect, Golden State traded Jason Richardson, a core member of the team’s miraculous first round upset of the first-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs in 2007, to the Bobcats for Wright’s draft rights.
But like with many prospects, Wright has yet to comes close to his potential. He’s been unable to add weight and as a result has been ridiculously injury prone. He couldn’t play in the Summer League before his rookie season because of a strained hip flexor and he missed the entire 2009-10 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He’s generally been a disappointment for fans – just ask Rasheed Malek over at the True Hoop Network’s Golden State Warriors’ bog Warriors World who e-mailed the following to me:
Brandan Wright came to the Warriors with lots of hype and very big shoes to fill. The Warriors traded fan-favorite and integral part of the “We Believe” Playoff team, Jason Richardson for Brandan Wright on draft night. Wright was supposed to solve the Warriors Big-man struggles and bring an aspect to the team which they didn’t have, a reliable big-man. But Wright’s tenure in Golden State never quite lived up to the hype and expectations, for one, he never was able to add weight and get his body “NBA” ready. He suffered injuries- mot significantly a shoulder injury that cost him nearly a year. Wright can score the ball and block shots but to expect him to do it at a consistent level or against bigger bodies on a nightly basis may be too much to ask form him at the moment. He needs minutes to get his confidence up and hopefully resurrect his career.
The thing is, there are believers out there. You know who loves the guy? ESPN’s John Hollinger of all people, who wouldn’t rate the Nets acquisition of Deron Williams until his contract status was clear, but gave the Nets a B- for the GSW trade, primarily because of Wright’s potential:
New Jersey, at least, ends up with a good player out of this in Wright, who can take over Derrick Favors’ minutes at power forward and should team with Deron Williams to provide a long finisher diving to the basket on pick-and-rolls. He’s injury-prone and doesn’t defend much, but he’ll help the Nets offensively. At the effective price of a second-round pick, this was a very solid addition; he’s a restricted free agent with a prohibitive qualifying offer, but New Jersey should be able to re-sign him cheaply if it’s interested.
As for exactly what kind of player the Nets are getting in Wright – there’s actually a lot of similarities between him and Favors in terms of shot selection. Wright currently has been more apt to take shots at or close to the rim (within 10 feet), accounting to 54 percent of his total field goal attempts. He’s a terrific finisher, which is a good thing. He has an effective Field goal percentage of 68 percent on these close and inside shots. What Wright can’t do is shoot jumpers. His eFG on jumpers is 38 percent and breaking it down further on Hoopdata, he’s shooting 25 percent on shots between 10-15 feet and 14 percent on long two’s between 16-23 feet.
Defensively, he’s a below-average rebounder, but an effective shot blocker. One area where’s he’s a significant improvement over Favors is his ability to avoid fouls. Wright is averaging 4.7 fouls per 48 minutes, compared with 8.1 for Favors.
As a restricted free agent at year’s end, there’s no guarantee that Wright has much of a future with the Nets. That all comes down to how much playing time he gets in Avery Johnson’s system and what he can accomplish with said playing time. With both Favors and Murphy gone, and the only other viable player on the roster with experience playing PF being Travis Outlaw, there certainly seems to be opportunity. Wright won’t make the same rookie mistakes Favors made defensively, but the team’s rebounding will be a nightmare if he gets paired on the floor with either Brook Lopez or Johan Petro. Obviously, with the playoffs currently the longest of shots, and a new floor general in Deron Williams, I would love to see what Wright can do, at least offensively, before he gets totally buried on the bench. That makes him worth following.