Delon Wright has appeared in exactly 27 games in each of his first two seasons in the NBA. Add that up and you have just over half a season logged thanks to a shoulder injury last year and a deep and talented team blocking his path to minutes in his rookie campaign. While neither of those seasons are presumably his fault, Wright will be asked to take on a much larger role entering a pivotal year for a Raptors’ organization that expects to contend in the barren wasteland of the Eastern Conference.
With Cory Joseph suiting up in Indiana, the expectations of Wright have grown dramatically. The third-year guard will no longer receive the delayed praise of a player who might be valuable down the road. He’s expected to get the chunk of the minutes left behind by Joseph immediately, despite a strong summer from Fred VanVleet who coach Dwane Casey dubbed a “miniature Kyle”. That’s a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a player who has just 54 appearances under his belt. Still, there’s a caveat that comes with Wright’s perceived youth: He’s 25 years old. The list of players his junior contains Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andrew Wiggins and Devin Booker, to name a few. Wright does not carry the same league-altering talents as some of his peers, but his maturity level will need to match that of a team trying to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals after a disappointing end to their 2016-2017 season.
How do you develop maturity without experience? You seek it out.
Wright spent his summer in LA working with the likes of Dwyane Wade and DeMar DeRozan in an effort to improve his game, but also his leadership. When Lowry takes a seat this season Wright becomes the first one to touch the ball, and the conductor of an offense that ranked 7th in efficiency last season. This is where Wright will be expected to improve the most. Wright’s Per 36 numbers are what you would expect from a deep-bench player, and those numbers will need to improve in certain areas:
It’s immediately obvious that Wright’s length makes him an above-average defender at point guard, but he’ll need to take on a much larger scoring and distributing role if the Raptors want to be taken seriously as a contender for the Celtics and Cavs. Wright took just 104 shots last season, but it’s still a large enough sample size to see where he needs to improve. According to Michael Grange, the Raptors want to take 30 threes a game this season. With Kyle Lowry’s mind set on taking ten of those, Wright will need to be ready to contribute to the missing 20. Wright has never been a particularly great shooter from beyond the arc, as evidenced by his shot chart from last season below, and never averaging more than 38% from deep in either college or the NBA.
With Casey also calling for a better passing attack (The Raptors ranked dead last in assists per game with just 18.6 in 2017) Wright will need to develop a balance between shooting and scoring, while improving at both. If this sounds like a tough task, it is.
Yet there will be no shortage of opportunities. Many in the organization believe Wright will see time at small forward, a report confirmed by Ryan Wolstat.
Casey says Delon Wright might play small forward too. Versatile. (I also read this as FVV pushing hard at PG). It’s (DW’s) time.
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) September 25, 2017
If Wright can stay healthy and improve his confidence with the ball he will be a significant upgrade from Cory Joseph on both ends of the floor. All that remains to be seen now is if he’s ready.