Columns

How to Help (Delon) Wright the Bench?

Toronto is deep at every position, none more-so than point guard, and Delon Wright is indispensable as the team’s third-string ball handler.

We’ve become spoiled as Raptors fans, and I mean that in the greatest of senses.  The Raptors are 20-5 to start the season, have a clear superstar talent in Kawhi Leonard, have a secondary star in Kyle Lowry being over everything, and are chock full of clear NBA talent through 13 players (…sorry, Malachi).

On top of all that, the Raptors five most successful seasons have all come in the last five years.  The idea of 50 wins once seemed impossible for the majority of franchise history and yet here we are coming off of seasons winning 59, 56, and 51 respectively.  Three straight years of 50+ wins and now 60+ actually seems achievable. That’s insanity, and while Kawhi is clearly the largest manifestation of this change in fortune, one needn’t look much further to see the transformation of the point guard position in Toronto starting with Kyle Lowry.

Just look at what the Raptors were dealing with before Lowry arrived in 2012, and before he started turning into KLOE a year later.  In the four seasons preceding Lowry the following all saw minutes for the Raptors at point guard: Jose Calderon, Anthony Carter, Jerryd Bayless, Ben Uzoh (damn him and the triple-double he rode out on…), Jarrett Jack, Sundiata Gaines, Quincy Douby, Will Solomon, and Roko Ukic.

That’s nine point guards getting minutes in Toronto in just four years.  Jose is a legend for being a stabilizing force in an awful time, but we honestly once tried to talk ourselves into Roko Ukic and Jerryd Bayless.  That’s a rather damning thing to say.

None of this is in the distant past either.  Anthony Carter was on the Raptors just seven seasons ago.  Six years ago we were still relying heavily on Jose Calderon who, as he is prone to doing, stole the starting job from Kyle Lowry briefly.

Thankfully, those days (at least for now) are behind us.  And not only do we get to revel in the splendidness that is Kyle Lowry on a heater (one is coming soon…I can feel it in my bones), we are truly spoiled by also having Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright backing him up and often playing alongside of him.  There are still teams like Phoenix and Orlando that can barely find one NBA level point guard and the Raptors have three!

Heck, even Lorenzo Brown is better than the majority of the pre-Lowry point guard rotation.  At least he had success at other levels of basketball and has an MVP to his name.  As much as he frustrates me at times I would take Lorenzo over Sundiata Gaines 100 times out of 100.

But having depth/talent can eventually bring about difficult decisions.  With Fred being signed to a new contract this past summer he and Lowry combine for $39.65M this year alone, and next season it jumps to $42.75M.  That’s a big chunk of change for the point guard position, but when both are on their game (come back to us fully, Fred!) the value they provide is clearly worth the money.

All of which brings us to the upcoming status of Delon Wright, who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer and should demand a healthy raise when that times comes.  As was previously said, based on need there are teams that should desperately call Delon to try and pry him away from Toronto.  Just look at Delon when compared to another 2019 free agent point guard:

Per 100 Poss Table
Rk Age MP FGA FG% 3PA 3P% 2PA 2P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS ORtg DRtg
1 24 511 17.8 .378 7.8 .354 10.1 .396 2.5 .692 8.4 4.8 1.3 0.6 1.5 3.4 17.9 101 105
2 26 324 14.9 .455 5.2 .457 9.8 .455 2.2 1.000 5.9 4.4 1.9 0.9 2.4 2.8 18.2 114 109
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2018.

Player 2 is Delon Wright.  The other is Terry Rozier, a player many have said should demand a salary starting north of $15M a season.

And while all of this raises questions, the answers don’t particularly matter right now.  The Raptors are loaded with talent and are looking at a run to the NBA Finals and contract details for a team in their position are best left for the future Raptors to deal with.

Talent matters in the NBA, and you can never have too much of it.  While Delon isn’t dominant in any one area his well rounded game translates to a variety of line-up possibilities and in theory a variety of teams.  At 6’6″ with a matching wingspan, he can easily slot into the off-guard role and at times can also see minutes at small forward.  That type of versatility is hard to come by.

Delon can break down a defence with his dribble when given the opportunity, but it’s the rest of his offensive game that currently causes me confusion.  In some ways he is the reverse of what we expect from him based on reputation.  Take a quick look at his shot chart on the season to see what I mean:

In a small sample size (35 attempts) Delon is currently leading the Raptors with a three point percentage of 45.7 percent (ignoring Jordan Loyd’s 2-for-2), with some of his attempts even being self-created pull-up jumpers.  It’s a wild thought but Delon shooting from deep has been one of the Raptors’ more efficient low usage options.

On the reverse Delon is finishing well below league average around the rim despite taking 57 percent of his attempts from within the general space of the restricted area.  He’s easily getting to the bucket, and can make some stupidly impressive lay-ups at times, but the consistent touch has been missing.

Swapping some of the offensive responsibilities of Delon and Fred could go a long way to helping both them and the bench mob’s early season struggles.  Delon’s pick-and-roll play is a more natural fit beside Jonas Valanciunas (similar to last season with Poeltl) and would allow Fred to play more as the spot-up shooter where he has found more success.  On catch-and-shoot threes Fred has shot an acceptable 34 percent on 2.4 attempts per game, where this number drops to just 27.3 percent on pull-up triples (1.6 attempts per game).

The bench mob has been better as of late (helped lead the comeback against Denver) but still falls well short of the high standard they set last year.  As Toronto looks to jumpstart this key piece of their attack giving more responsibility/opportunity to Delon could be a key step in Wright-ing the ship.

Comments
To Top