The Raptors addressed a huge problem within their rotation when they made the move to add Serge Ibaka, the frontcourt situation has been stretched thin this year with Patrick Patterson missing some time with a knee contusion. The Raptors will absolutely miss Terrence Ross’ three point shooting ability, but the departure of Ross also frees up minutes for some players log jammed in the Raptors deep backcourt. Ross became expendable when Norman Powell showed his ability to play great defense, drive to the basket with incredible speed, and an improving three point shot. With one trade, the Raptors frontcourt became much improved, and didn’t create a major hole in the backcourt.
Much like Powell did last season, Delon Wright is a player who is starting to emerge and could help relieve some of the minutes of Raptors point guards Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. Going into the All-Star break, Lowry leads the league in minutes per game at 37.7, the Raptors rely heavily on Lowry and maybe too much at times. If the Raptors have any aspirations of playing in May his minutes will have to be reduced, and some rest games (especially on back to backs) will have to be given. Most Raptors fans have Cory Joseph in their bad books right now, he’s not playing well defensively or doing a great job running the offense at times. If Cory continues to struggle, it might not be a bad idea to give Wright some of his minutes as well.
Before you call the sample size police on me, I understand Wright has only played 266 career minutes, and only 9 minutes this year before his big role in the fourth quarter comeback against the Charlotte Hornets a few nights ago. I’m not here to talk about his numbers, but what Wright possess is a unique and different skill set he could bring to the Raptors rotation at the point guard position.
The Raptors have struggled almost all season defensively, and recently it’s gotten even worse. Down the stretch in games, coach Dwayne Casey struggles to find five players who want to play hard defensively. The Charlotte game was an example of this, after poor play from some of the regular rotation players, Casey rolled with Lowry/Joseph/Wright/Carroll/Poeltl, three points guards, a wing, and a rookie centre for the entire fourth quarter. This lineup weirdly worked, Lowry and Joseph worked their butts off guarding the backcourt pieces, but it was the versatility of Wright’s defensive game that was a game changer on the defensive end.
Wright is a big point guard, standing 6”6 with a 6”7 wing span. That wiry frame allows Wright to switch onto bigger defenders with ease, even when guarding the much bigger Nic Batum, his lateral quickness and length isn’t a detriment to the defense when switching onto a bigger player. We praise Patterson’s ability to be an extremely effective defender in one on one situations, his ability to guard much smaller wings, and having the strength to guard low post players. Wright offers a lot of the same abilities Patterson does but for the backcourt, while both Lowry and Joseph are good defenders, Wright offers a different kind of versatility to the Raptors defensively, he can guard much faster point guards, even some of the bigger wings.
Offensively, it was encouraging that the Raptors kept giving the ball to Wright to allow him to run the offense, his unselfish play allowed Lowry to play off the ball as a very effective spot up shooter. Wright is spectacular at driving and dishing to open shooters out of the pick and roll, in the video below there are two examples of his ability to change speeds when attacking defenders in the pick and roll. With his height at the point guard position, he has no problem seeing over defenders to hit open shooters in the corner. In the second clip, Wright draws multiple defenders driving to the basket, and is able to see over all the action to hit Lowry in the corner. The third clip in the video, is Wright back in his college days at Utah. Drawing two defenders up top, Wright’s court awareness and height allow him to see over the defenders and hit the cutter for the open dunk.
He is also a very capable scorer out of the pick and roll when driving to the basket, this makes the pick and role not so predictable. Wright has shown the ability to finish through contact, and be a crafty scorer around the rim. In the video below Delon snake’s the pick and roll getting Jeremy Lamb on his back baiting him into a foul. The Hornets defense may have expected a pass out of Wright, but he keeps his dribble catching Lamb and the rest of the Hornets defense on their toes while he gets a very efficient layup off.
Wright has a great defensive mind, a very long and athletic body for his position, great court vision, the ability to finish around the rim, and he played four years in the NCAA so he’s experienced and NBA ready. The only knock continues to be whether or not he can be a consistent shooter. Through watching some 905 games and his minutes last year, Wright is still woking on his shot in both spot up positions, and when working in the midrange.
Like most young players, there are holes in their offensive game that need to still develop. Wright’s shooting could be a problem if playing time is increased, defenses will adjust to his skill sets the more they see him play. For now, Wright is a very capable point guard, his age put his basketball IQ far beyond someone who is in their second year in the league. While his offensive game is still improving, Wright shows a ton of promising attributes he could bring to the Raptors rotation right now.
As Blake Murphy said in his article yesterday about the positives and negatives to having depth which you can read here. It’s unlikely that Wright sees more time in the second half of the season. He has missed almost a full calendar year of basketball recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The game against the Hornets was definitely his coming out party, at least now we know Wright is the kind of player that can alleviate some of the regular rotation players minutes in crunch time situations. Whether Wright see’s a promotion in the second half is unknown, Coach Casey hasn’t mentioned much about resting players down the stretch of the season, or what the Raptors rotations will look like with the addition of Ibaka and the subtraction of Ross. Depth is a good problem to have, options are nice, and Wright is the a unique player to have on the depth chart.
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