It’s the fourth quarter, and the Raptors are grinding away with a bitter rival. The ball sits in the hands of the oppositions number one scoring option and he’s making a beeline for the rim. One of the best defenders on the Raptors is tracking him down, matching the steps, getting ready to challenge the shot. The ball goes up, and it’s emphatically swatted off the glass. Delon Wright has always been an uncanny shot-blocker for a guard, but we’ve come to expect these things. Danny Green is showing us why to expect it from him as well.
The Raptors have an embarrassment of riches at this point in time, particularly at the guard positions. Kyle Lowry is operating in more space than he ever could have imagined, punishing teams in a myriad of ways. The Bench Mob isn’t the same as last year, but Fred VanVleet is still commanding that unit effectively. Green has been proclaimed the “Cthulhu of plus-minus” by an underrated Raptors follow @AnnaJaneSmith4, and for good reason. Green has been doing all the things that the Raptors struggled with in years past. Shooting with no hesitation from downtown and knocking these shots down at an elite clip (43-percent). More importantly, be it the first quarter or the fourth, he’ll put up the same shots. Whether or not he can sustain that level of shot-making is up in the air, although it seems entirely possible that he can eclipse 40-percent this year.
The Raptors are suddenly equipped with players who allow them to play a more modern defense, and succeed at it. Green figures heavily into this new defense and he’s not on the floor for his shooting (it helps though) alone. The Raptors are surprisingly adequate rebounding the ball while small. Green has been helping tremendously in this regard, putting up a career high in rebounds thus far (4.8-per game). The Raptors love a guard who will go chase a rebound down to jump-start transition. Nailing down rotations, blowing up pick and rolls, Green has had a superb start to the season.
So how does Wright figure into this situation? For starters, he’s a borderline elite defender at the smaller positions. He sprays the ball around the half-court similar to players like LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan. Wright’s height at the point guard position allows him to pass over the top of defenses from corner to corner. While his herky-jerky game generally lends him the ability to attack the basket at any speed he chooses. This helps him draw weak-side help towards the rim and opens up a nasty wrap-around pass on the baseline. As far as passing goes, there are few players in the league who see the floor like Wright does.
Part of the reason the Bench Mob was so potent last year was the tandem of VanVleet and Wright. If the offense were to go stale, oftentimes Wright would be able to bring it to life with exceptional creativity on the offensive end. VanVleet’s shooting helped space the floor, and his willingness to run the floor gave Wright options when in transition.
Green’s addition to the team likely eats away at a lot of the minutes Wright might’ve gotten with the starters. Green is nearly as capable a defender (maybe more, depends who you ask) and a significantly better shooter. With the offense humming the way it is, it might be hard for Nick Nurse to opt for more defensive oriented line-ups that feature Wright. Provided he can blow the doors off of opposing teams while still maintaining a modicum of defense.
Easier shots for VanVleet
More minutes with the Bench Mob for Wright likely means Norman Powell gets a lot less playing time. Based on the last year of results, this is likely a good thing, especially for VanVleet. None of VanVleet’s 3-pointers this year have come off an assist, we’re only four games in but that’s bonkers. What’s more, only .071-percent of his baskets anywhere on the floor have been assisted. He’s been spectacular creating his own looks, but there’s been a dip in efficiency, especially from 3-point land (.250-percent).
It’s early of course, but those numbers are unconscionably low. Wright’s return will allow VanVleet far more time off the ball. More spot-up opportunities for one of the Raptors best spot-up shooters. The way VanVleet has had to play sans-Wright would have him run-down by mid January. Green’s addition this year is rewarding because it allows more VanVleet-Wright minutes.
Wright’s return shouldn’t be world-changing for the starting lineup, but it should supercharge the Bench Mob. Adding another potent lineup to a team with several of them already.
The rest of the team
Green’s arrival and Wright’s return make things laughably good. These progressions allow the team to pile up wins while resting Kawhi Leonard. While also allocating more rest for Lowry. The Raptors have changed a lot from last year. With that change came Green and Leonard. Within that change, expect Wright to find a lot of success.
Nick Nurse and Wright commented on his return recently, and you can find their comments here.
Have a blessed day.