Don’t call me Joey 2.0

Pardon the lame title, but I couldn’t help myself. Reading through Blake’s latest and greatest, he hit the nail on the head: we don’t need DeRozan to be a superstar this coming season. Don’t get me wrong, that would be nice if he came through like VC did in his rookie year and drop 20 a night, but we have enough scorers on this team that D-Squared doesn’t have to kill it from game 1. Enter Antoine Wright, one of the pieces we got in the Hedo trade.

He instantly steps into the starting shooting guard role for the Raptors. He may not log 30+ minutes a night (never played more then 24 a night), but he is one of two players we have at the shooting guard who will be expected to pick up where Anthony Parker left off (I have zero expectations of Douby…big donut). What do we really know about the kid though? I turned to a couple TrueHoop brothers in hopes of getting a bloggers opinion of Antoine…

Sebastian Pruiti (@NetsRScorching) of Nets are Scorching:

Antoine Wright came into New Jersey with some big expectations. As the #15 pick overall, he was a billed as a “do it all player” but he never really performed up to expectations as a Net. A great swingman over at Texas A&M, Wright had (and still has) the size and the athleticism to play either the two or the three spot. He makes enough threes that it is a threat, but he can put the ball on the floor as well.

In my opinion, Antoine’s biggest problem in New Jersey was the fact that he was playing behind two great players in Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. The fact that he came in with real high expectations didn’t help the situation. Wright was only on the court 9.5 MPG his rookie season, and when he was out there he didn’t play well at all. Personally, I think this hurt him a lot mentally, and it seemed like he checked out from that season forward. Even as he saw his minutes rise each year as a Net, he never really had a breakout game/season during his time here. With that brought a lot of boos and a lot of animosity. So when the Nets traded him, I wasn’t completely surprised. I didn’t really follow him during his time in Dallas, but looking at his numbers, it seems that his play was similar to how he was playing when he left NJ. Meaning he is improving slightly, but not enough to warrant a significant rise in minutes.

Sorry to paint such a bleak picture, but it would be foolish not to describe his time in NJ as a failure. It isn’t all bad though, he is still very young (turning 25 some time next year), and I think going to a team where he wasn’t the 15th pick or a part of the Devin Harris trade will really help. Plus, the skills are all there, he just has to put it all together, and it isn’t like he is getting worse, he is in fact improving (His FT%, 3PT%, and Scoring has gone up every year in the league except one). It is just not at the rate you would expect a lottery pick to. I thought it would take a year or two for him to develop into a serviceable 6th man, but it just didn’t happen. Realistically that is the best that Raptor fans can hope for out of him next year. Unless he starts the year playing out of his mind, he will be a guy you can put in to create a size mismatch or to hit a three or two. That is about it.

Err…ok, he had high expectations getting drafted by Jersey and didn’t get comfortable playing behind VC and RJ. Maybe his time in Dallas will be more positive….

Rob Mahoney (@RobMahoney) of The Two Man Game:

Mark my words: Antoine Wright will be relatively unloved and under-appreciated. Some will be eager to criticize his merely average shooting stroke, but Wright works hard on both ends and is improving as a scorer. That’s not necessarily ideal for a starting shooting guard (he was the de jure starter for the Mavs last season, although Jason Terry logged a majority of the minutes), but it can make Wright enticing as a rotation player.

I think the key with Wright is understanding his limits. Don’t expect a high-volume scorer, don’t expect an impressive arsenal, and don’t expect Bruce Bowen. Wright will be an interesting contrast with an athletic, instinctive scorer like DeMar DeRozan, but it’s important that Wright be viewed with that lens; Wright’s not a replacement or substitute for DeRozan, but a different look with less of an innate feel for the game. Antoine’s athleticism is decidedly average by NBA standards, but rather than fall by the wayside as so many similar players have, Wright may have carved out a niche for himself with his work on the defensive end. He is by no means an elite NBA defender (try above average), but I find Antoine’s high-energy approach endearing. He stays with his man, contests shots, and generally works in the “doing the little things” mold to contribute in the most subtle of ways. Admittedly, Wright’s not always super-effective in that regard, but his defensive efforts and expanding offensive game do give him some value on the floor.

Wright is a markedly better spot-up shooter than he was when he first came to Dallas, and he’s also shown to be a decent slasher. But Wright’s still shaping his own offensive abilities, and for better or worse he is both evolving and malleable. Or offensively raw and currently unspectacular. Y’know, depending on which side of the bed you woke up on this morning.

Sound like anyone we know? Cough…Joey Graham…Cough… Actually, Wright was drafted one spot ahead of Joey in 2005.  Fortunately for us, this is where comparisons with Graham end. Where Joey was a physically gifted player with all the tools (except a brain/motivation) to excel at the NBA level, Wright is an energy guy who has created a niche for himself with his defensive ability and spot up shooting.

I would venture that expectations are much lower for Wright then in years past for a couple reasons:

  • He was a throw in on the Turkoglu trade
  • We drafted a promising young’n at the shooting guard position who we all know will be the starting SG by mid-year and the SG of the future
  • He is not expected to put up copious amounts of points on the board (we have enough scoring)
  • Toronto fans appreciate energy players who play tough defense, and since Humphries and Pops are gone…

What does concern me is productivity:

PER:
Parker – 12.16
Wright – 8.63

Production per 36min:

It’s not necessarily the points that concerns me, he is improving in that department, but the kid is 6″7 and grabs 2.4 rebounds per 36minutes. Considering he wont be playing more then 24mins, he will be contributing about 1.6rebs/game. For a team that struggles to rebound, this is not good news. Considering Calderon only grabs about 3 per 36mins, we can expect our starting backcourt to grab just 4.6rebs/game. What compounds that is that Bargnani wont be grabbing much more (6.1), so we have 3 positions on the floor that contribute about 10.5rebs/game. Add in Bosh and Turkoglu (5.2) and Bosh (9.5), and our starters grab 25.2rebs/game. Looks like we will be struggling to grab boards again…that’s another article.

Back to Antoine; he is 9 years younger and 1-inch taller then Parker. If he can play lock-downish defense on the perimeter, grab some boards, knock down the occasional three/jumper and take it to the rack whenever a lane opens up … that is all we can hope for. If he can avoid the mistakes Moon made, and swing the ball on the perimeter and not grin idiotically and incessantly, he will be fine. Not asking for great, just don’t want to see bad.

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