Remember Delon Wright? Last year’s rookie had become a forgotten man in Toronto after a Summer League injury sidelined him for the first 3.5 months of this season and the Raptors signed the undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet, but the Raptors point guard is back and making an instant impression.
In his first NBA game this season after a rehab assignment with the NBA D-League Raptors 905, Delon Wright was a lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal performance by the Toronto Raptors in Chicago on the Tuesday before the All-Star Break. Then on the back-to-back in Toronto against the Hornets, head coach Dwane Casey went to Wright early and played him the entire fourth quarter.
“I thought he played well (in Chicago),” Casey said pregame in Toronto. “He was very creative with the basketball and defensively did some good things. He’s going to be a good player. I thought he changed the energy of the game. We were in a stupor in the first half and I thought his play energized us in the second half. His penetrations, kick outs, his plays with the basketball and his defense. That was his charge coming into this season was improving his defense and he was guarding Rondo who is not an easy guard at that position and he did a good job.”
Wright earned those minutes back in Toronto the next night. He was the only player on his team to finish with a “plus” in the plus/minus statistic in Chicago and it was no fluke. He really did play well in his first nine minutes of action this season.
Wright has fully recovered from his shoulder injury and his rehab assignment with the 905 showed he was ready to contribute. In 5 games with the 905, Wright averaged 30.1 minutes, 12.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and more importantly 5.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks.
“Sort of I’m done playing there (with Raptors 905), so hopefully with what I’ve done so far it translates to up here (with Toronto Raptors),” Wright told Pro Bball Report a few days ago. “As long as I don’t have to play 40 minutes, I’ll be good. I feel I am in good condition.”
Against Charlotte Wright was in decent enough condition to play almost 28 minutes, but it also became obvious that every time Wright brought up the ball for the Raptors something good happened while when anyone else initiated the offense, it was a crap shoot. His defense on the Hornets $20 million per year wing Nicolas Batum was equally impressive. Batum shot 1-4 in the fourth quarter, only hitting what looked like pray from deep.
“Delon Wright is going to be a good player in this league,” Casey repeated after the game. “Unfortunately he is playing behind an All-Star in Kyle (Lowry), but there are some minutes to be had for him. He did a great job. His size and length helps the blitzing problem and playing under control.
“The 905 is a huge asset for us. you can go down there and play and stay ready.”
Casey went with an unusual three point guard lineup and surprisingly it made both Lowry and Joseph better in that fourth quarter, Kyle hitting 2-4 three-pointers and Cory going 2-2.
“It allows both Kyle and Cory to get off the ball. It’s what (Wright) does,” Casey said. “Teams are all locked in to play those guys. It allows Kyle to be a shooter, he’s one of the best three-point shooters and it gets him off the ball.”
There have already been cries of the ‘sample size is too small,’ but that fails to give Wright credit for how he finished off his rookie campaign. If he hadn’t been hurt to start the season, expectations were already set to rise.
In four appearances with the Raptors in April, Wright averaged 14.3 points, on 53.8 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1 steal and 0.8 blocks in 26.7 minutes as Toronto went 3-1 in those games. He put up a career high 19 points against a Pacers team fighting for it’s playoff life.