Among the seven players jettisoned out of Miami was six-year fan favorite Dorell Wright, the Heat’s first round draft pick in 2004. Wright made headways early, as he was the first high school player drafted by Pat Riley and the Heat organization.
During his six-year tenure in Miami, Wright teased Heat fans with his athleticism and vast array of abilities. He excelled at rebounding and defending, but flashed a sweet shooting stroke, above average passing, and ballhandling abilities. But his biggest asset was his basketball IQ, as he just knew how to make plays.
Yet one very important factor kept getting in the way of his progress—Wright couldn’t stay healthy long enough to put all his talents together nor enable the Heat organization to fully trust that he would be there when they needed him most.
In the Beginning
Wright played a total of 23 games in his first two seasons, primarily because he wasn’t ready to be a rotation player on a team contending for an NBA title. The Heat took this time to develop Wright’s game as well as his lanky frame.
After the Heat captured a NBA Championship in his second season, Dorell would crack the rotation for an impressive 66 games (19 as a starter) and would average 20 minutes per contest.
Things were looking up for the then 21 year old, or so it seemed.
He would enter the 2007-2008 training camp as the Heat’s frontrunner to start at small forward, beating out veteran Ricky Davis. He would play well, highlighting his early season success with a 19-point, 18-rebound game versus the Golden State Warriors.
He would start the season off starting 34 of his 44 games before suffering a left meniscus tear in his knee. The injury would sideline him for the remainder of the season and once again force him to start from scratch.
He entered the 2008-2009 Heat training camp with the knee not fully healed. Because of his injury, his future with the Heat hung in jeopardy. Wright would only play in six games during this season, primarily because he never fully recovered from his knee injury.
He Finally Puts It Together
After a promising showing in the 2009-2010 Heat training camp and preseason, Wright had recaptured the attention of the Heat coaching staff, yet still he remained third on the Heat’s depth chart at small forward as well as shooting guard when the season began.
He played spotty minutes for the Heat through the first 10 games. He would get his break when Daequan Cook went down with a shoulder injury. He embraced his newfound opportunity and never looked back.
He was consistently a top five or six performer throughout the season for the Heat. But most importantly, he remained healthy and finished the season with a career-high 72 games.
Why Golden State Coveted Him
Golden State has had their eyes on Wright since December 7, 2007. It was a game that would display the full potential of what the young man could do.
In 42 minutes of play while matched up against Stephen Jackson, Dorell Wright scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds (five offensive), blocked three shots, and finished the game with zero turnovers.
After that game he’s been on the Warriors radar, and for good reasons. Several teams made attempts to acquire Wright through trades this past season, but he had made himself such an asset to the Heat’s playoff push that Riley elected to pass on all overtures for Wright’s services.
This past season Wright displayed an even broader skill set and had many fans and opponents in awe of his growth. Already known for his defense and rebounding abilities, Wright displayed an ability to play a point-forward role, as well as an off the dribble pull up that had been missing since his high school days. He expanded his range to beyond the three-point line.
However, the most noticeable aspect of his game was his maturity on the court. Wright had developed a quiet confidence about himself and it reflected in his on-court communication with the Heat’s second unit. He was clearly the leader of the group and often found himself closing games with the Heat starters.
Clearly with the Warriors lacking leaders from a winning pedigree, Wright was viewed as a perfect fit for what the team will attempt to accomplish next season.
What Will Be Expected of Him
Wright will primarily be the team's designated defender of talented wing players. That will be his main duty and focus. He’ll also be counted on to provide a winning attitude and a lot of energy to a team that desperately needs something to believe in.
Yet that isn’t the only reason Golden State gave him a three-year deal.
He is expected to be their version of a young Scottie Pippen. He will be expected to rebound and initiate transition offense. By him doing so, it’ll allow Monta Ellis to take off and free Stephen Curry to spot up for three-point attempts with his feet already set.
He’ll also be expected to provide another capable shooter on the floor to properly spread the floor for Ellis and David Lee to operate in isolation situations.
Dorell Wright will fit right in with the new culture that the Warriors are trying to establish. His experiences with the Heat over his first six seasons will benefit him as well as his new teammates.
I fully expect him to average 13-plus points, seven-plus rebounds, four-plus assists, a steal, and possibly a block this season.
He’ll be a frontrunner for Most Improved Player this year.
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