Delon Wright has been a phenomenal development for the Raptors this season. From being drafted just a shade under three years ago, in June of 2015, Delon has surely developed into one of the league’s best backup point guards. For all the good that has come from the Raptors bench this season, one has to be reminded of the inevitable fate of each player in the upcoming offseason.
Yes, we’re only in late January, however one of the pressing questions this season is exactly how Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office will deal with the surplus of point guard talent on the roster. Despite past season struggles, Dwane Casey has done an incredible job managing minutes thus far in the season — especially with his talented point guard pool.
You have four-time All Star Kyle Lowry, who is still regarded as one of the league’s best at his position. There’s Delon Wright, a tall, pterodactyl-armed guard who can initiate an NBA offense with ease, but most of his value comes on the defensive end where Delon has the rare ability to guard three positions on the floor. Then, there’s Fred Van Vleet. If Wright has been a ‘phenomenal development’, FVV has been an absolute godsend for the Toronto Raptors. A point guard who truly started from the bottom and now he’s here. You can look someone dead in the eye and say the Raptors possibly roster two of the best five backup PGs in the NBA (again while also starting an All Star PG, to boot). Van Vleet has quickly become a knockdown distance shooter, a supremely technical floor general, a better rim-finisher and at times, a pest defensively.
Now here comes the hard part.
Fred Van Vleet is on the final year of his contract, with the Raptors reserving the right to propose a qualifying offer. In short, that would be Toronto offering FVV a one-year contract, with minimally-added financial gain from his previous season. Everyone and their mothers are well aware Van Vleet would demand more money than a mere 125% increase of his previous salary, or even a $200k increase (if a player does by any chance accept a QO, they must take whichever option guarantees them more money). In an open market, Van Vleet would be offered a monumental raise, most likely ranging between $5-8M per season — the NBA’s market for a backup PG’s salary. That’s fine and dandy, seeing as ‘Steady Freddy’ is clearly one of the better reserve guards in the association.
You also have Delon Wright, who has two more seasons under team control — regular contract years previously exercised for the 2017-2018/2018-2019 seasons and enters restricted free agency in the 2019 offseason. Undeniably, Wright will be offered a multi-year extension before exhausting two of these years. Unlike FVV, Wright has suffered multiple shoulder injuries and came into the league with durability concerns, as well. He returned from a shoulder separation injury (the same right shoulder injured in the past) roughly one month ago and has not shown any signs of decline whatsoever.
Both players have career highs in minutes, points, assists and rebounds — also, in the advanced statistics category of True Shooting %, Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). This is the best we’ve ever seen from Van Vleet and Wright and chances are, it’s only going to get better.
The pivotal question arises, will that inevitable Delon Wright contract extension come from Toronto or another NBA team? Does Ujiri take the chance in re-signing Wright and waving goodbye to Van Vleet? Or will it be the other way around? Should Masai use Delon Wright (who certainly will have value on the market) as trade bait? Will Wright be part of an eventual larger trade in the coming offseason? All signs point to Lowry being the lead franchise point guard for at least another full season, so that’s a constant.
Throughout the regular season and eventually the NBA Playoffs, we’ll all be enjoying these two developing players while we still can. They both, often simultaneously lead the NBA’s best bench unit on a nightly basis. Both players are relatable and persevering, making them easy to root for.
So who will be the odd man out?
One thing’s for sure, you can’t keep everyone.