The plan was for Delon Wright to be the Raptors back-up point guard when he was drafted in 2015, but a few weeks into his third season and he remains a relatively unknown product after being used sparingly.
No one at the time expected the San Antonio Spurs to close a deal with unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, and that to get the salary space they would need to cut bait with Cory Joseph by making him a free agent. Toronto was suddenly flush with point guard talent and Delon relegated to third string duties.
Cory was not only the prodigal son returning with an NBA Championship ring on his finger, but he quickly established himself as a key rotation piece within many of the Raptors best line-ups. This left Delon with garbage time minutes (or injury replacement time) and stints with the Raptors905.
Now in his third year the Raptors have turned the back-up duties over to Delon, with a slight push from Fred VanVleet. Delon is finally getting a shot at key rotation minutes and, most importantly, he is already showing he is more than ready for what he is getting.
Before we get to the good though, that’s start with the downright terrible: his three point shot. There are times when it looks smooth(ish) and comfortable, albeit a little slow, but the results are certainly not there. While currently attempting 2.6 per game from three, he is hitting an abysmal 23.1 percent. His percentage is actually on the way up considering he has hit his last two attempts from long range.
The shooting was the biggest question mark when he was drafted, and remains exactly that. If he were to add a relatively consistent three point shot, even if only on catch-and-shoot attempts, his game would be much more complete.
Despite his shooting woes he has still found was to contribute positively on offense, both in transition and in the half-court. Defenders willing duck under every screen that is set for Delon due to his non-existent shot, but he still finds a way to make it work. He is a master of the re-set screen, as he so easily reverses and goes the opposite direction.
Entering last night Delon was the ball-handler for 35.5 percent of the possessions he has been on the court, and is in the 98th percentile (97.8 percent to be exact) league wide. To put this simply, Delon is one of the most efficient ball handlers in the pick-and-roll league wide, scoring 1.25 points per possession on this play type.
As the pick-and-roll ball handler Delon is shooting 60 percent overall, has a freethrow frequency of 21.4 percent, and is getting an and-one 10.7 percent of the time. A functional offense can be built around Delon simply running one pick-and-roll after another.
Defenders willingly ducking under the screen on Delon hasn’t slowed him down at all. Take a look at the relatively beautiful shot-chart so far this season:
That’s a lot of red beyond the three point line, but Delon is shooting above the league average at the rim and has yet to take any shot between the three point line and the restricted area. His shot selection has been a work of art, along with the way in which he uses his incredible vision and passing touch to create looks for his teammates.
If you remove Alfonzo McKinnie from the list (has only played 11 minutes on the season) Delon is playing at the fastest pace on the team. Playing with speed then maximizes the tools of players like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, while also creating shooting lanes for a sniper like CJ “Two Legs” Miles.
His length and timing has caused problems for defenders, and his ball-pressure has contributed to some of the top defensive line-ups the Raptors have deployed. Outside of the starting line-up that has played 93 minutes together so far, the most used 5-man group has been Delon, VanVleet, Miles, OG Anunoby, and Jakob Poeltl. This five man bench unit has the team’s best defensive rating (minimum 9 minutes played) at just 89.1. In fact, when looking at 5-man rotations, Delon Wright is involved in four of their top five defensive units.
Yes, this is an oversimplification of what Delon provides, and five-man rotation data is not perfect data, but the consistency in which he appears in these units does say something about his contributions on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raptors go as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan go, but the Raptors bench unit is stabilized by the efforts of Delon Wright who is making the most of his new found opportunity to play.