The unexpectedly expected rise of Dorell Wright
If you had Dorell Wright pegged as a 20-point scorer or the league leader in three-pointers made a week into the season, I’d politely ask that you step toward the stake surrounded by kindling. We don’t take kindly to witches and soothsayers around here.
In retrospect, though, it makes complete sense. Maybe not Wright’s .545 mark from long range, that’s just surreal. But with the power of hindsight, we can see that Wright was already a competent three-point marksman last season (.389 on 157 attempts), and that with the handy offensive benefits that the Golden State Warriors provide, a boost in production like this should have been expected.
Last season, Wright played for the Miami Heat, who ranked 19th in offensive efficiency and 28th in pace. Miami made the playoffs on the strength of their defense and their Dwyane Wade-ness, with each offensive possession merely a phase in their slow-motion grind through 48 minutes. Wade had to create entirely too much of Miami’s offense in the half-court, and thanks to the lack of second-tier offensive talent to ease the burden, the Heat’s game plan was too easily derailed. Wright can clearly succeed as an offensive contributor, but only if he’s not asked to actually run the show. He inhabits the all too familiar space between role player and quasi-star; he can hit shots but struggles in creating them, and he can produce like a star without actually becoming one. Wright may be growing as a player -- he certainly looks more fluid this season than ever before -- but don’t let his remarkable per-gam production thus far fool you. He’s taking steps, but hasn’t made any leaps.
This season’s Warriors play a full 10 possessions per game faster than last season’s Heat, which means that Wright has gone from the third slowest team in the league to the third fastest. Stylistically, that suits him, but it also generates more possessions for Wright and his teammates to use. Additionally, we’ve seen Wright’s minutes almost double, his usage rate bumped, and his field goal attempts increase from 10.1 to 14.2 per 36 minutes. Compound all of that with the ability to play off of Monta Ellis, David Lee, and Stephen Curry, and it’s odd that Wright’s “breakout” wasn’t more predictable. Perhaps Keith Smart’s willingness to employ a fast-breaking style similar to his predecessor was underestimated. But for those who assumed that the Warriors would more or less stay the Warriors, Wright’s production is merely in line with what we should have expected of him in an increased role on a faster team.