Grade the deal: Grizzlies grab Brandan Wright, add new frontcourt dimension
On the first day of NBA free agency, teams on the whole committed to an astounding $1.4 billion in future player salary. Factored into that sum was a modest three-year, $18 million deal that, in the context of the day’s splurging, seemed as if it were a relic of another era. It was earmarked for Brandan Wright from the Memphis Grizzlies—a quiet, mid-level arrangement that already looks to be one of the best values of the off-season.
Wright has put up strong per-minute numbers throughout his career, though none better than those he posted during three seasons and change in Dallas. A free-flowing offense suits him. Memphis might not have that in the most apparent sense, though the right lineup builds could give Wright a nice pick-and-roll runway to play off of Mike Conley, Vince Carter, and even Courtney Lee. Any ball handler working in conjunction with Wright will see lanes open up before them, vacated by defenders wary of the lob. That’s what happens when a roll man finishes better than 64% from the field in back-to-back seasons.
He is in no way a straightforward playbook analogue for players like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Instead, Wright acts as a means to broaden Dave Joerger’s options and give the back end of his frontcourt rotation a very different look. Wright can still be used to execute pick-and-rolls, dribble hand-offs, or even duck-in post-ups. He simply poses a very different kind of threat in each of those scenarios from the Grizzlies' regulars, introducing some healthy diversity to a team that occasionally drags in its execution.
Memphis already had a terrific backup big last year in Kosta Koufos. Never, though, have the Grizzlies had a player who can glide through the lane to catch and finish at such a wide variety of angles as Wright. This will be a departure from what the Grizzlies have known and from what Grizzlies opponents have known of them.
Wright, if nothing else, has a kinetic quality to his game that could help jolt Memphis out of its lulls. He’s still poised to be more of a per-minute wonder with the Grizzlies than a heavy lifter, set for the 18-20 minutes a night that have become his standard. Even in those relatively short bursts, Wright can make a profound difference on the game by running the floor (another point of differentiation from, say, Randolph), extending vertically to swat away shots, and electrifying the offense with his athleticism. A little dynamism can go a long way.