Dorell Wright could change tune of Blazers bench

Offseason addition gives team options on offense, defense

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

Published:

 
photoDorell Wright, Portland Trail Blazers

Dorell Wright could be Portland's most intriguing off-season addition.

Only some of it has to do with his burgeoning acting career as a music video love interest.

The 10th year swingman started his career in Miami, where he was part of a championship team in 2006.

Wright led the league in three-pointers made for Golden State in 2010-11, before averaging 9.2 points off the bench for Philadelphia last season.

In the offseason, Wright was cast as the love interest in the video for Sevyn Streeter's song "It Won't Stop." The song has reached No. 8 on the Billboard R&B charts since debuting earlier this month.

It was not Wright's shots -- on the hardwood or on the video set -- that caught Terry Stotts' eye.

It was Wright's defense.

"First of all, he's a much better defender than I anticipated with his length and at that position," said head coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously with his three-point shooting he is going to be a threat on the court."

Wright likes being in Stotts' offense. One reason, he says, is that he no longer has to chase Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews around screen after screen.

"I think it's going to be easier for me to get my offense in as well because it won't be so much of me being around the three-point line and just catch and shoot," Wright says. "I'll be coming off screens, coming off different staggers and flares and getting my midrange shots in and getting to the basket."

A career high 60 percent of Wright's field goal attempts came beyond the three-point line last year for Philadelphia, according to Basketball-Reference.

Wright created a lot off the dribble too in Philly. Even while playing for a stagnant, inefficient Sixers offense, as he had his most efficient year scoring on pick-and-rolls at 0.797 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. That is better than anyone on Portland's bench last season.

While Wright's primary job will be to back up Batum. Nearly every good team in the NBA has a "small-ball" unit. Stotts has mentioned using Wright as a "stretch-four," a role Wright is used to playing.

"We'll look at those lineups in preseason with Dorell, when Nic comes back, when Dorell comes back and playing those two guys together at three and four," Stotts says.

"I've been playing the four to tell you the truth, probably four years now," Wright said. "Being in the pick and pop, you know spacing the floor and things like that."

Undaunted on defense

Wright is up to the task defensively of guarding power forwards.

"Oh I like it," he says. "One of the things I have that's really underrated is a great technique as far as bigger guys posting me up, so I'm able to have a strong base and try to keep guys out of the paint."

While Portland's small-ball lineups scored well and defended well, Batum says that Wright brings something Portland hasn't had before with his skills as a defender and three-point shooter.

"We didn't really have that before. We had a little bit when Gerald Wallace was here, when he played the four but D-Wright is more a shooter so you can (spread) the floor more than Gerald," Batum says.

Batum says the possible 2-3-4 lineup of Matthews, himself and Wright could be a "nightmare match-up," because he anticipates the wing trio being able to "switch on everybody" defensively.

"In the NBA you have to have that dimension to your game," said Stotts. "You have to have the ability to space the floor with one big man and a lot of shooters on the court and Dorell gives us that."

How often will that trio see the floor? Stotts isn't sure just yet.

"And we'll look at it, I don't know whether it will be a steady diet of that or if we are struggling to score and need to change it up, or match-ups or what," he said.

Wright gives Portland decent three-point shooting, length on defense, decent playmaking and an ability to find his own shot. Wright says he knows that the feel with the team will not come instantly.

He'll bring stability to second units. What makes Wright intriguing is that it's not what he does as much as how and where he is used that makes you pay attention.

His future playing as a leading man in music videos requires monitoring as well.

"Beyoncé, Nicky Minaj, Rihanna, whoever call me."