Brandan Wright gets easy buckets for a living.
That’s a heck of a lot harder to do in the NBA than it sounds.
[+] EnlargeWright does it as well as anyone, which is why he leads the league in field-goal percentage, hitting exactly three-quarters of his shots so far this season. Sure, it’s a small sample size to this point. But Wright shot 67.7 percent from the floor last season and sits at 63.6 percent over his three-plus years with the Dallas Mavericks.
“Each year, I’ve been getting better and better as far as field-goal percentage,” said Wright, who is averaging 9.7 points in 18.2 minutes off the Mavs’ bench. “One of these days, it’s going to go down.”
As long as the 27-year-old Wright can get up to eye level with the rim, it’s a safe bet that his shooting percentage will rank among the NBA’s highest. After all, there aren’t many players with a 36-inch vertical leap and a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
Wright plays to his strengths with his shot selection. He has worked to expand his shooting range to about 18 feet, and he’s knocked down 100 percent of his attempts outside the paint so far this season. That is, he’s 1-of-1 on such shots.
The vast majority of Wright’s attempts come at point-blank range or pretty close to it. According to NBA.com’s data, 45 of Wright’s 60 attempts have come within five feet of the basket, where he’s shooting 80 percent. His 45 field goals include 16 dunks and 17 layups.
“My job is simple. When I get the ball, I need to make a play with it,” said Wright, who has ranked in the league’s top 25 in player efficiency rating the past three seasons and sits second behind only New Orleans’ Anthony Davis in the category so far this year. “Thankfully, most of the time, I’ve been able to finish.”
But it’s not as simple as standing by the rim and waiting for the ball to come your way. Wright, who benefits from playing the vast majority of his minutes at center alongside a floor-spacing power forward, has mastered the art of making himself available around — and above — the rim.
Wright’s high basketball IQ, honed over hours of studying film and helped by playing in the same offensive system since arriving in Dallas as a lottery-pick reclamation project in 2011, helps him get on highlight reels.
“He’s a knowledgeable player that understands where openings are,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He does a good job anticipating and getting to them. We’ve got guys that understand where to get him the ball, where he is and things like that. That helps, too.”
Wright, like 70-percent-shooting starting center Tyson Chandler, flourishes at catching and finishing after rolling hard from a pick set for the ball handler. Wright also excels at slipping screens, cutting to the rim when he catches his defender cheating a half-step in anticipation of showing against the guard. And Wright has a knack for finding cracks in the defense, whether he’s cutting from the weak side or exploiting a defense compromised by a drive.
“He’s got a feeling of when to get around the ball,” said Mavs guard Devin Harris, who has assisted on 12 of Wright’s buckets this season. “He understands how to read his defender, and it’s easy to get the ball to him. You can’t overthrow him. I have actually [tried]. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Wright, in his eighth year in the league and fourth with Dallas, is still rising.