How Brandan Wright Can Help the Boston Celtics Rebuild

Michael Pina@@MichaelVPinaFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2014

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 26:  Brandan Wright #12 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during the game on December 26, 2014 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Boston Celtics are 1-3 since trading Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and a couple draft picks (not to mention a sweet $12.9 million trade exception), and they're winless in games the new players have actually suited up for. 

Until draft picks materialize—specifically a first-rounder that probably won’t end up in Boston’s hands until 2016—the key piece in this transaction was Wright, a 6’9” pterodactyl who’s adored by most forms of statistical analysis. 

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 23:  Brandan Wright #12 of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket against the Orlando Magic on December 23, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or us
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Wright leads the entire league with an effective field-goal percentage of .736, is second in block percentage (6.6 percent), third in win shares per 48 minutes (.263) and sixth in player efficiency rating (25.4). Some of his success is surely due to an advantageous role in Dallas, playing limited minutes off the bench in Rick Carlisle’s wondrous system, often beside Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and other dangerous offensive weapons. 

Now, he’s at the opposite end of the NBA spectrum, on the ground floor of a rebuilding situation with the Celtics, a team that’s far less talented with much lower expectations. Important questions abound. Does Wright fit in with Boston’s current roster? Can he provide rim protection and stabilize a frontcourt that offers little resistance on opposing drives to the basket? Is he a long-term starter?

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 23:  Brandan Wright #12 of the Boston Celtics shoots against the Orlando Magic on December 23, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this pho
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Before going there, Wright’s contract situation needs to be discussed. He’s making $5 million this season but hits unrestricted free agency in July. That's a problem. Wright's value on the open market will probably differ with where Boston's at in its rebuild, and Celtics general manager Danny Ainge must figure out how much a six-year veteran role player who’s never averaged 20 minutes a game is worth on his team's long-term cap sheet. 

Right now, it's easy to say Wright is underpaid, but that won't be the case on his next deal. Does it make sense for the Celtics to have a 27-year-old career backup big man making what he's worth, or slightly more?

On the other hand, Wright has real, winning skills. Especially on offense. And he could be viewed as an infrastructural piece as Boston continues to search for superstar talent. Wright makes life easier for ball-handling guards and three-point shooters as a screener on the pick-and-roll, and that ability won't go anywhere for a long while. He rebounds, blocks shots (but isn't best-suited as a full-time rim protector) and has experience filling a specific role.

Plus, Ainge and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens love him. Here's some more insight provided by CSNNE.com's Jimmy Toscano:

Stevens: Brandan is a guy that, this is kind of how my job works in communicating with our front office, that after we play a game maybe I'll say, 'Man, I think he's really under-valued,' because of the way he gets to the rim, the way that he finishes, and I think his second jump on rebounds is as quick as anybody's around. So we'll figure out how they'll all fit with what we're trying to do and how we can fit ourselves to best situate them.

Ainge: Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, as an example are two players that we’ve tried to acquire in the past. Thought they were under-valued players in their minutes, in their contributions so far. And time will tell if we were right or wrong on that, but we really like them, and think they fit into a good team in a rotation role. 

It's interesting to note that Ainge believes Wright is a good fit on a good team. Obviously, the Celtics are not a good team. And even though it's only been three games, Stevens has yet to incorporate Wright into his regular rotation, playing him a grand total of six minutes in Boston's two-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday afternoon. This brings us to the possibility of a trade.

Moving Rondo before Dec. 19 allows the Celtics to deal whomever they got back again this season, so long as it's before the trade deadline. But because it's over the cap, Boston isn't allowed to move Wright in any deal with another Celtic until Feb. 17. The team can still move Wright by himself, though. 

There's opportunity here—especially if Ainge thinks it'll lose Wright for nothing this summer—and Boston will aggressively scour the trade market for either a younger player on a rookie-scale deal or another draft pick. If it waits until Feb. 17, a package involving someone like Jeff Green could be extremely enticing for a title contender looking to beef up its depth. 

Some of these teams don't have much to offer, but the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers are two that could. And Anderson Varejao's torn Achilles tendon turns the Cleveland Cavaliers' desire for stable rim protection into an immediate necessity. A trade here makes all the sense in the world, so it's no surprise that Boston and Cleveland are reportedly talking about making one happen, per Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.

Until then, Wright is a nice player who should fit in nicely beside Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, two forwards with shooting range. Here's a basic look at one way Wright can immediately help.


Wright plunges toward the rim on a high pick-and-roll with Nelson, forcing Olynyk's man, Justin Hamilton, to help down in the paint. The result is an open three. This specific example is slightly exaggerated due to Miami's aggressive defensive philosophy, but fundamentally it still holds up. Dives through the paint suck in help defenders. When those defenders stay home on the perimeter, Wright gets easy looks at the basket—hence his league-leading field-goal percentage.

Whether his skills stick around in Boston all that long is to be seen. But either way, the Celtics have a solid player who doubles as a valuable trade asset, which is exactly what they need to expedite a potentially lengthy franchise renovation.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.

Michael Pina is an NBA writer who's been published at Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, Fox Sports, Grantland and a few other special places. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.


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