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NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Win When Delon Wright Scores Says John Wall

The Wizards know who the stars are on the Toronto Raptors and they’ll tell you they are ready for them, but it’s the other guys that they worry about. Role players like backup point guard Delon Wright who play better at home and whose scoring can make the difference between winning and losing.

“Delon Wright came in and made some big shots and big plays for them,” Wizards John Wall said after Game Five. “Whenever he gets over 10 or 15, nine times out of 10 they win the game.”

Well in this first round playoff series, the Raptors are three-for-three when Wright scores in double-digits and that’s not inconsistent with his season. Toronto won 73 percent of their games when Wright scored 10 or more points this year and just like in the postseason, he’s a better shooter and scorer at home than on the road. Wright hit over 40 percent of his threes at home during the regular season and he’s 6-10 from three so far against the Wizards in the playoffs at the Air Canada Centre.

“There is no reason (Wright) should be passing on any open shots,” C.J. Miles said after Game Five.

But it isn’t always easy for Wright to fight against his pass-first nature and it took a significant amount of outside pressure after two lackluster games on the road to somewhat embarrass him to get back to doing what he does well and his team needs from him.

“People were telling me to stop hesitating and just shoot the ball,” Wright said. “People all on my Twitter, Instagram, my family, about 30 people told me.”

Apparently it worked. Now Wright doesn’t tweet or post every day, but he obviously checks his accounts, so now it’s incumbent on his followers to remind him to shoot prior to every game!

 

Coach Casey has given everyone on the Raptors the green light to shoot their shots and hopefully Wright doesn’t need a reminder to let it fly in Washington on Friday. But perhaps it’d be a good idea to remind him?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Has Embraced The Three-Ball

Delon Wright will tell you he’d prefer to pass the ball instead of shoot and head coach Dwane Casey obviously likes the young guard for his defense, but in this new Raptors offense, Wright is expected to score as well as do everything else and in keeping with the program, he has embraced the three-ball.

“They just don’t want us taking the two-point shot,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “I don’t even attempt to shoot them. My mindset is three-pointer or a lay-up.

“With my nature being pass-first, I was passing up (three-point shots) a lot and they got on me about that. They want me to shot it more instead of passing.”

In his D-League rich and injury shortened first two seasons in Toronto, Wright only attempted 43 three-point shots in 54 NBA games. This year, however, he’s hoisted 125 threes in 57 games and he’s been knocking them down at an acceptable 36.8 percent. The 16 percent of his shots that he from three he took as a rookie is now almost up to 35 percent.

“My first year I wasn’t that comfortable because I was trying to fit into a role and I wasn’t comfortable with the position yet,” Wright said. “Now that I’ve been playing it the whole year, I’m comfortable shooting those shots and know where those shots are going to come from.”

Wright was a typical young guard coming out of college. He had a strong preference to drive when he did get the urge to score. It wasn’t easy, but Wright has bought into the Raptors new offense.

“I’m a driver, so teams try to pack the paint on me, so I have to be willing to take that open (three-point) shot,” Wright said. “It will free up the guys that are driving. I have to be willing to take that three-pointer.”

The impact of the three-point shot threat hasn’t just opened up driving lanes for others. It’s dramatically improved Wright’s ability to score from two as well. His two-point percentage has bumped up from 45.3 percent last year to 53.4 percent this year and he’ been finishing an impressive 65 percent of his shots at the basket. There’s nothing like the threat of a three-ball to open up a lane to the rim.

While the improvements haven’t always come in a straight line from the beginning of the season, in his last five games since coming back from a sore toe Wright has been hot from three, hitting on 47.1 percent of his 17 three-point attempts.

“He’s had an opportunity to score, making open shots, he’s being aggressive,” Casey responded to Pro Bball Report recently. “All those things he’s been doing and he’s doing a much better job.

“There’s nobody on our team that doesn’t have a green light to shoot. They know their shot.”

The Raptors new style of play has, sometimes grudgingly, made Wright and others on this team better players and it’s unlikely Toronto would currently be residing in first place if the change hadn’t happened.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Casey Says Raptors Will Bet On Their Bench In The Playoffs

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey plans to bet on his bench in the playoffs this year. When asked if he could play his 10-11 man deep rotations the same way in the postseason, Casey stumbled over a why wouldn’t I?

“We are going to find out,” Casey said after his bench beat up on the Wizards in Washington on Friday night. “The goal is to find out. Why not? What’s our record right now?

“Why change because of some rule book somewhere, if you find it, please send it to me cause I’ve been on some teams where you keep the same rotation.”

The Toronto bench hasn’t just been good this season. They’ve been outstanding and the eye test says they’ve been getting better as the season has moved along. But don’t just trust your eyes, the numbers confirm the five-man bench Casey rotates in is the best five-man unit in the entire NBA that have played at least 100 minutes together this season. In 207 minutes over 22 games, C.J. Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright have a top three offensive rating of 121, a top six defensive rating of 94.7 and a league best net rating of +26.3.

Now no one is going to confuse the Raptors bench unit with the offensive powerhouses in Golden State or Houston that lead the NBA in offensive ratings, but on most nights they are destroying their opponent’s second unit and are often giving the opposing starters brought in to stop the bleeding a rough time.

As Casey rotates in his bench mob, the pace of play picks up, the ball moves faster and opponents often struggle to adjust. As a result, the Raptors dominate the second and fourth quarters.

Toronto is the league’s best second quarter team with a net rating of +14. The next best second quarter team in the East is Charlotte at +4.5.

Toronto also has the best fourth quarter net at rating +8.7. The Celtics are second best at +7.3.

In February, these second unit guys were closing games out for the Raptors.

 

 

“We take a lot of pride in coming in off the bench and changing games,” C.J. Miles said.

The Raptors starting unit that has featured rookie OG Anunoby 44 times hasn’t exactly been terrible as they’ve posted a very respectable +12.1 net rating, but the bench can take at least some of the credit for the starters success as they’ve often been the guys to put their opponent on its heels.

Anyone who has followed the Raptors under Casey and president Masai Ujiri shouldn’t be surprised by a commitment to the young guys coming off the bench or a rookie in the starting unit. Player development has been front and center in each of the Raptors playoff runs under their management. The difference this time is, this bench looks like they’re ready to make an impact.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Is Blocking Shots Like He’s Kevin Durant

Toronto Raptors backup point guard Delon Wright made his presence felt on the defensive end of the court against Detroit on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre with his fifth multiple block game of the season as the Raptors 20th pick of the 2015 draft has been rediscovering his impressive college defense. Over his past 13 games, he’s been swatting away layup attempts and jump shots at the same rate as Kevin Durant.

“I’ve always been a guy that going to block shots,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “Even when I was younger, it was just something that I was able to do.

“If you look at my college stats I’ve been blocking shots since my junior year.”

He was 5th overall in the Pac-12 with 43 blocked shots as a junior and blocked 77 shots in 68 games during his two seasons with Utah. Not bad for a 6’5 guard. So, this really isn’t anything new for Wright, from his perspective.

Returning from a shoulder strain in mid-December, Wright has been on a roll and he’s been averaging 10.7 points while shooting 50 percent from three, 4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 23 minutes since December 23rd. He should be forcing head coach Dwane Casey to find him even more minutes, if only the Raptors weren’t trying to develop so many young players this season.

As impressive as his offensive contributions have been recently with two 20 point games over the past month, it’s those blocks that have been most unexpected and invigorating to the players on the bench. Perhaps it’s time to just expect them, but like a big man playing on the weak side, those blocks just seem to come out of nowhere at just the right time.

“I like to use my timing to get those weak side blocks,” Wright said. “Whatever I can do to get a stop, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes guards will try to bump into their man and as they are hanging in the air I try to see if I can get a finger on it.”

And Wright has been getting a finger on the ball a lot lately. Over these past 13 games, Wright been blocking shots at the highest rate per minute of any guard in the association, just ahead of rookie of the year candidate 6’10 Ben Simmons, but perhaps more impressive is he’s been ahead of big centers like Steve Adams and Gorgui Deng.

Apparently, blocking shots isn’t anything outside of his skill-set and in his third NBA season, Wright has got this thing figured out.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet

Raptors Counting On Delon Wright And Fred VanVleet

There’s a reason why teams like to carry three point guards that they aren’t afraid to play and with the Toronto Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry out with a bruised tailbone, they’ll be counting on Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet to pick up the slack.

Head coach Dwane Casey hasn’t been shy about playing the third year Wright and the second year VanVleet significant minutes this season and the real sticking point may come when he’d like to be running out his three point guard lineup that’s produced some interesting results. However, in the process, he’s gotten these two young guards as ready as possible to cover in Lowry’s absence.

The season-to-date stats for Wright and VanVleet are as encouraging as they are misleading.

Wright has averaged 21.2 minutes over 26 games having missed a stretch do to a shoulder injury and he’s averaged 8.8 points on 50.9 percent from the field, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks. He’s as comfortable running the point as playing off the ball and has even soaked up minutes as a small forward. Versatile should be his middle name and he is really at his best when he looks to score, although he prefers to facilitate.

VanVleet has appeared in all 38 games averaging 17.9 minutes, 6.3 points on 39.4 percent shooting, 2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 steals. He sees a surprising amount of time in fourth quarters and isn’t afraid of the big moments.

Both players have been getting significantly better as the season has progressed and during the team’s current five game winning streak:

Wright has averaged 13 points on 59.1 percent shooting from the field and 54.5 percent from three, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks in 25.4 minutes.

VanVleet has averaged 9 points on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 46.2 percent from three, 1.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 0.6 steals in 18.9 minutes.

The Raptors are hoping the trend continues as both players will be expected to carry a heavier offensive load until Lowry gets back.

The Raptors can’t expect to replace an All-Star with a couple of young guards no matter how well they’ve been playing lately and there is no way to know if they can play as well for extended minutes without Lowry’s veteran presence. There can be no question both Wright and VanVleet have looked better playing with Lowry on the court beside them.

Next man up, opportunity knocks and a whole other list of clichés. The Raptors have no choice but to count on their two young point guards. All those minutes Casey has been been giving them this season is looking like it was a pretty good idea right about now.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Versatile Delon Wright Has Broken Out

When a young player puts up a line of 25 points, 4 three-balls, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a block for his first ever double-double in a meaningful mid-season game it gets noticed, but it doesn’t mean they have broken out. However, Delon Wright’s big night didn’t just happen, for him it’s been a rough road thru injuries, internal competition and the lower expectations that come with being a late first round draft pick.

Wright was both a seemingly unstoppable offensive force and a disruptive defensive presence during the Raptors first win in Chicago over the Bulls since 2013. His efforts were only slightly overshadowed by DeMar DeRozan’s 35 points, but this night was something we should have saw coming.

Since the start of November Wright has been shooting the ball exceptionally well and month off between mid-November and mid December to rest his second shoulder injury in two seasons hasn’t slowed him down at all. If anything, Wright has significantly improved since his return, his play at both ends of the court commanding an increased role off the bench, and everyone in the organization is telling him to shoot more.

“Everybody, even people in the top of the organization, everyone, just shoot the ball, we don’t care if you miss,” Wright said after the game.

Those requests to shoot more were not being made gratuitously. In November Wright was shooting 75 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three, but he was only taking 4 shots per game. Those shooting percentages aren’t realistic for anyone to maintain and since his return they’ve dipped to 48.8 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three on 8.4 shots over his last 10 games, but if he keeps firing in this ballpark, the Raptors will be pushing Wright to shoot even more.

Listed as the backup point guard, the 6’5 Wright finds himself entering most games on the wing, defending ones, twos and threes. He plays off the ball at least as often as he’s expected to initiate the offense and he is almost always on the court with another point guard.

“When I am in with Kyle (Lowry) it’s more of a facilitating role, when I’m with the second unit, I can do a little of both,” Wright told Pro Bball Report earlier this season. “It just depends on who’s on the floor, your role kind of changes.

“It’s just something you have to do. If you want to be a guard and you want to play, you have to play multiple positions.

“I’ve played off the ball a lot and on the ball also. It’s not a big issue. It’s just sometimes I get into the mode of trying to score more instead of facilitating.”

And scoring more is something the Raptors want to see from their promising young guard. Drives to the basket and an improving three-point shot was something Wright was known for at the University of Utah.

“I have to get back to that,” Wright said about his days with the Utes. “I think I am better as a player when I am trying to score more instead of always looking to pass.”

As a senior, Wright was the first player from the Utes to be selected to the First Team All-Pac 12. He was also Pac-12 All-Defensive First Team, led the Pac-12 in steals, third in field goal percentage, and sixth in blocked shots.

There were concerns last season after he returned from a summer league shoulder injury just before the All-Star break, but couldn’t find his shooting stroke and it was a problem that persisted into October of this season.

But, Wright has been getting back into a scoring role and the Raptors are reaping the benefits. He’s becoming another driving guard with a deadly three-point shot that keeps defenses honest.

Toss in the nearly one block and 1.6 steals per game since his return to action in mid-December and head coach Dwane Casey is being hard pressed to give the versatile Wright even more playing time. 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl and OG Anunoby

Raptors Still Trying To Develop And Win At The Same Time

The one constant since head coach Dwane Casey arrived on the scene in Toronto six years ago has been a focus on developing the team’s young talent and even after four consecutive trips to the postseason, the Raptors are still trying to develop and win at the same time.

“It’s very important and I think they are going to get that opportunity,” Casey responded to Pro Bball Report about playing the young guys this season. “I think that’s what we’ve been doing the entire exhibition (season) is giving those guys an opportunity to play and produce and I think that’s very important for the future of our organization (that the young guys) come out and play and get experience.

“The only way you get experience in this league, you are not going to get in the 905 (G-League), you can develop some skills there and get better and work on some things but, the only way you get ready and prepared mentally and physically for the NBA is to play in the NBA, so they are going to get that opportunity.

“The young guys are going to play.”

True to his word, the Raptors second unit in the first regular season game featured significant minutes for the Raptors young core.

Third year guard/wing Norman Powell started and played 25 minutes and third year guard Delon Wright came off the bench for 23 minutes and both players were significant contributors. C.J. Miles was the only veteran in a second unit that saw rookie OG Anunoby play 17 minutes, second year center Jakob Poeltl on the court for 18 minutes and second year guard Fred VanVleet play 13 minutes. Second year forward Pascal Siakam and undrafted rookie Alfonzo McKinnie got minutes during garbage time in the Raptors blowout win.

The young second unit that looked good in preseason was outstanding playing against a depleted Bulls team on opening night.

“The young group has come in and done a heck of a job of energy, focus, togetherness,” Casey said. “They play together like they’ve played together for the last four or five years, so that’s been a joy to watch.”

They were a joy to watch. It was the Raptors second unit that took over Game One of the season and staked the home team to a 20+ point lead in the second quarter that they rode to the end.

In the home opener it was the starting unit that sometimes looked out of sorts with 12 of the team’s 17 turnovers, however, Toronto has a lot of talent in their first five and this team has realistic sights set on being better than last year’s 51-win season.

The team’s two returning three-time All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should do no worse than leading their team back to a home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Serge Ibaka, who helped Toronto to a 14-7 record after the All-Star break while Lowry was injured last year is ready to show he’s yet to get the respect he deserves and Jonas Valanciunas has looked like a young veteran ready for a break out season.

This team is expected to win, but it’s going to take some major contributions from the young guys if the Raptors are going to improve on last season when it counts in the playoffs. The development of players like Powell, Wright, VanVleet, Anunoby and Poeltl can’t happen fast enough and they’ll be tested early and often in October.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Powell Wright VanVleet Siakam Poeltl 2017

Are The Raptors Opting For Youthful Excitement?

The further Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets into July, the fewer his options are to actually move the needle on expectations heading into the upcoming season. So, apparently, the Raptors are opting to develop the young guys and at least it has the potential to produce some youthful excitement.

Ujiri has done a good job of getting below the luxury tax threshold as, once again, that was a lot more important than he let on before the draft. The Raptors may be hard-capped at $125 million in total salaries, but the tax bill will be minimal or zero with a little room left over to go add some cheap veteran help.

Like last year, the Raptors currently have what should be a pretty solid eight man rotation with a few positive changes.

  1. All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are back to lead the show.
  2. New three-point threat C.J. Miles is a major upgrade on the wing over DeMarre Carroll in terms of actually being about to hit threes.
  3. Serge Ibaka will be around for training camp and the start of the season this year. At power forward or center, he’s a huge upgrade. And, yes,
  4. Even Jonas Valanciunas is a veteran that can rebound and give smaller centers fits in the paint and on the glass (until he’s traded?)
  5. Third year players Delon Wright and Norman Powell are expected to be solid young additions to the rotation playing significant minutes at guard and on the wing.
  6. Last year’s lottery pick Jakob Poeltl looked pretty good backing up center after the All-Star break and is an obvious successor to Valanciunas if and when JV gets traded.

The impact of youth on the Raptors season will be evident from the start. They’ll need Powell, Wright and Poeltl to bring all the energy and excitement they can.

However, like last year, the rest of the roster has its question marks. (Thus the need to find another cheap reliable veteran.).

Lucas Nogueira could be an impact player at power forward and center if he could get out of his own way. It’s on him to get serious and focus on basketball. Hopefully, head coach Dwane Casey isn’t forced into using “Bebe” because he doesn’t have a better option and the 25-year-old from Brazil earns a spot in the rotation at training camp. The Raptors leading shot blocker and turnover machine from last season is a guy that could move the needle on the season, if he’s ready, if he really wants to, t.b.d. (not holding my breath.)

The other project from Brazil, 21-year-old Bruno Caboclo, finally played well in the NBA D-League championship run by the Raptors 905, but that was after a pretty mediocre regular D-League season. No one is counting on anything from Bruno. His brief appearances in the NBA over three seasons don’t fill one with confidence. He’s a straight up ‘show me you deserve to be here’ player.

The NBA D-League Championship MVP Pascal Siakam started 38 games as a rookie for the Raptors at the start of last year solely because the viable rotation was that thin, so at least he has some NBA experience and he is improving. But is he really ready to backup power forward this year as a 9th or 10th man? Casey might not have another option but to go with the potential of this young developing athlete again. It could be exciting, but not necessarily in a good way (yet). He can fly around a court though.

As soon as he is 100 percent healthy, ready or not, rookie forward OG Anunoby is going to get a look. He missed NBA Summer League rehabbing his knee. It’s hoped he’ll be back in time for training camp, but no guarantees. He’s an uber-athlete, but hasn’t played since January, so no one will really have any idea what to expect this year, but in terms of excitement, his coaches and his fans can’t wait to find out.

Reminding everyone of a young Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet keeps showing enough to believe he’s going to stick in the NBA for a long time. The problem is, even if he unexpectedly beats out Wright for minutes at backup point guard, that isn’t going to move the needle on the Raptors season. It’s more likely his big impact will come if one of the four guards ahead of him gets hurt and he steps up to fill in the gap.

With the Raptors just over the luxury tax line, eventually the recently acquired Justin Hamilton will be traded or waived and stretched. The excitement Hamilton is expected to be providing comes when he makes room for someone else.

Did you see the Pogo Stick Alfonzo McKinnie has been riding at NBA Summer League for the Raptors? The 6’8 24-year-old forward should be reminding everyone of Jamario Moon back in 2007-08. He has a $100,000 guarantee on a two-year minimum contract, so he still has to make the team at training camp, but at the very least, this kid will be fun to watch in preseason. If you want excitement, you should be hoping he makes it.

Getting below the luxury tax threshold is good for the Raptors corporate owners. Watching the young guys play during the regular season isn’t even a bad deal for the fans as they will be exciting. However, for anyone hoping against hope this team would be trying to surpass the Cavaliers this season, how much luxury tax the Raptors were prepared to pay was a benchmark.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright, Cory Joseph, and Fred VanVleet

Should The Raptors Trade Canadian Cory Joseph?

It is widely assumed the Toronto Raptors will re-sign All-Star Kyle Lowry in July and that lands them back squarely in the untenable position of carrying four point guards again next season. So, taking all of their options into account, should the Raptors trade backup Cory Joseph even though he’s the popular local Canadian kid who’s made good?

Joseph was an upgrade at backup point guard when president Masai Ujiri signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2015. The young guard had spent four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs honing his craft, playing in 41 playoff games and collecting a championship ring in 2014.

Just turning 24-years-old at the start of his first season in Toronto, it was expected he’d continue to build on the steady improvement shown in San Antonio and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made sure this local prospect would be given every opportunity to excel.

Joseph has backed-up Lowry and Casey found additional minutes for him with regular two point guard line-ups. Over the two years Joseph has averaged better than 25 minutes a game and had some big moments, but one can be excused if they are having trouble finding “a next step taken” in Joseph’s game.

  • Joseph’s three-point shot that hit 36.4 percent in 2014-15, back-slid to 27.3 percent in his first season with the Raptors and only rebounded to 35.6 percent last year.
  • He is still scoring at the 13.3 points per 36 minute rate he left San Antonio with, his rebound rate is down and his assist rate hasn’t changed.
  • Known for his defense, his steady steals rate of 1.2 per 36 minutes reflects the barely noticeable change at that end of the court as well.

In many ways, the soon to be 26-year-old hasn’t shown any significant improvement in the past four seasons. The shade being thrown at him from some corners notwithstanding, Joseph isn’t playing poorly. He just hasn’t gotten better.

Last year Ujiri unexpectedly signed undrafted free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, bringing his rookie total to three and his point guard total to four. Neither situation making much sense heading into a season with high expectations. If he re-signs Lowry as expected, continuing to carry four point guards still doesn’t make any sense.

The barely acceptable excuse for signing VanVleet was Wright’s injury at Summer League that was expected to keep him off the court for a couple of months into the season, however, Wright is back and looked pretty good after the All-Star break.

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

The 6′ 5.5″ Wright showed defensive potential covering multiple positions and the maturity expected from a 25-year-old. He looked ready to assume the backup point guard role and take his game to another level if given a chance.

The undersized VanVleet has drawn comparisons to Lowry for his style of play. The “younger” 23-year-old was still making rookie mistakes and playing too fast, but the effort, hustle and fearlessness was hard to ignore.

What the Raptors saw from Wright and VanVleet should make Ujiri very comfortable in making Joseph available in trade talks and Joseph should draw plenty of interest from teams in need of a reliable floor general.

Joseph is still young enough that another organization, if interested, will believe they can further develop his game. His contract is modest and the risk is low.

  • Joseph has averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 69 career starts.
  • He’s played in 71 playoff games.
  • At worst, he’s a solid backup and great teammate.

How Ujiri decides to handle his four point guard “problem” remains up in the air and the Raptors opportunistic leader will undoubtedly resolve the issue based on what brings back the greatest value. However, with Luxury Tax issues expected to overhang this summer’s moves, Joseph trade rumors should be starting up any time now.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Earning Praise On Defense

With the Toronto Raptors struggling to a 15-16 record in 2017, the only thing head coach Dwane Casey could have wanted from his sophomore third string point guard Delon Wright was getting him back sooner. Injured in Summer League Wright has only played in eight games this season, but he’s already been earning praise for what he’s been able to do on defense.

“He’s good,” DeMarre Carroll told Pro Bball Report. “He’s very long. He plays the passing lanes really well. He’s one of our better defenders. He’s young and still trying to understand, but at the same time, you can see how he’s going to be growing into his role.

“It’s something you come in with naturally, a knack for the ball. He doesn’t come in and try to force stuff, he plays his defense and tries to compose the team and that’s what we ask from him and he’s doing a great job at it.”

Currently running a second unit for coach Casey out of necessity with All-Star Kyle Lowry sidelined for at least a month and backup Cory Joseph pushed into the starting lineup, Wright has made an impact. The Raptors are an improved 5-3 with him on the court and Wright has a Net Rating of +6 points per 100 possessions largely due to a solid defensive rating 97.8.

The defensive-minded Carroll judges his own performance by the plus/minus stat and he appreciates a player who steps in midseason and starts off +44 points in their first eight games.

“I feel prepared,” Wright responded to Pro Bball Report. “Now it’s just getting more comfortable with the role that I am playing now knowing it will be a little more extended than it would have been with Kyle being out.”

Thrown into the fire with a second unit that’s still trying to figure things out, the Raptors have been above water with Wright on the court in six of his eight games. Only Wright’s inconsistent offensive production forcing Casey to look for other options when he needs additional scoring.

“I just got to find my rhythm,” Wright said. “I haven’t been shooting as well as I could have. They want me to be aggressive and if (the opposition) keeps going under to shoot it. They don’t care how many times I miss. I think that’s important that they have confidence in me to shoot it. The ones that I have missed have been bad, so it’s comforting to know they want me to shoot.”

The offense should come. Last season in the D-League and with the Raptors in April, Wright was an effective scorer and solid three-point threat. He should find his offensive rhythm again as he puts more games under his belt.

As difficult as losing an All-Star like Lowry is for the Raptors, it does provide an opportunity for a player like Wright to show what he can do in meaningful games and develop his skills against solid competition. It likely costs the Raptors a few wins now, but it could really pay off later.

“I find it better to play in some meaningful games and try to help the team keep moving forward,” Wright said. “The team needs us, all the young guys to step up to help the veterans and I think that’s it’s important for us to get better this way.”

It’s important for Wright to get better. President Masai Ujiri put his faith in the team’s own young players rather than picking up a veteran point guard off of the NBA’s waiver wire scrap heap and he’s been rewarded. It’s hard to argue the Raptors would be better off with a rental than playing the guy already in their own organization.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell & Delon Wright

The Raptors Will Be Relying More On Norman Powell

By Frank McLean

When Terrence Ross was traded to the Orlando Magic last week for Serge Ibaka one member of the Raptors stood to gain a lot more playing time and that’s second year guard Norman Powell.

Powell, whose rights were acquired by the Raptors on draft night in 2016 from the Milwaukee Bucks for Greivis Vasquez, has shown some spurts of brilliance in his year and a half with the Raptors. He has been a fan favorite and his two way play on the floor and hard work in practice is something head coach Dwane Casey loves and he will tell you that when asked.

He was factor in last year’s playoffs in the first two rounds against Indiana and Miami, but as a rookie he was not as successful against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was headed for their first ever championship.

This season during DeMar DeRozan absence due to his ankle injury he started and since DeRozan came back he has been a big cog in the fourth quarter providing impact off the bench like a fourth line player in hockey.


He’s only been averaging seven points and two rebounds a game, but in the last two games before the All-Star break with Terrance Ross gone he got to see a lot of time and he produced.

In 18-minutes against the Chicago Bulls he put up 13-points and the next night against the Charlotte Hornets he played 28-minutes and scored 17-points.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey admits that way Powell has been used it hasn’t made things easy for him.

“As a coaching staff, we put him in a tough situation. He starts one game and has a rhythm. He comes off the bench in the fourth quarter when we need him and it’s a different rhythm. That’s hard to do and it’s tough on him, but as I mentioned to the players, this is the NBA. You have a chance to do your job. If it’s two minutes, five minutes, the whole game, go in and do your job. And don’t forget what got you here. The dirty work, the grimy work. So whether it’s Norm or whoever is in that role has to remember that I got here by being a grinder, a tough defender at my position, and offensively do what comes naturally.”

Powell says it would be easy knowing what the rotation is going to be on a given night, but as the old saying goes, it is what it is.

“I think it would be easier knowing the rotations, knowing when you are going to go in, knowing when your name is going to be called, but it’s still the same thing for me. I have to go in there and produce and help on both sides of the ball, defense first. Take some of the workload off Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar (DeRozan) when asked and just try to be productive in my minutes. That’s presented to me and I’m just looking forward to it. It’s a new opportunity that I’m ready for.” 

Powell is happy for the opportunity to get more playing time, but he was close to Ross and this was a lesson that professional basketball is a business and sometimes you lose friends.

“I mean it’s crazy waking up and seeing not just your teammate, but a close friend of yours gone. Being here my first year and a half, I just wish him the best and thank him for everything we talked about and helping me along the way. All the best to him in his new situation. There’s an opportunity for him down in Orlando but, you know, he’s going to be missed.”

Powell’s opportunity almost vanished at the last second on trade deadline day when the team acquired the versatile defensive specialist P.J. Tucker, but before a game could be played, Kyle Lowry showed up with a sore wrist. A wrist injury that has now been determined will keep Lowry out of the lineup for a month or more. Minutes that supposedly had vanished were back on the table for the Raptors second year guards Delon Wright and Powell.

In the first three games after the All-Star break Powell has averaged 15.3 minutes, 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. It’s not the same role as he would have enjoyed if the team hadn’t of acquired Tucker, but it’s a role he likely gets to keep – for a while at least. Wright is averaging 13.7 minutes as the two young guards have been splitting the time the now starting Cory Joseph was playing off the bench.

Powell knows this is his opportunity to make a name for himself in the NBA and if the last five games are any indication, he’s not going to waste it.

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Remember Delon Wright? The Raptors Point Guard Is Back

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.

“I feel good,” Wright told Pro Bball Report before Christmas. “Happy to be back getting some shots up and working out.

“Nothing happened to my confidence. I don’t see not going back to what I was doing.”

Give credit where credit is due. Wright has picked up right back where he left off last season and possibility even a little further ahead despite the injury. Didn’t someone say competition for minutes is good for an organization? Watch your back Joseph, someone is gunning for your court time.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet

Are The Raptors Showcasing Fred VanVleet?

For the second game in a row, undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet was given the Toronto Raptors usual backup point guard Cory Joseph’s minutes in what is hard not to describe as an obvious showcasing of a talent someone might covet as we approach the NBA Trade deadline.

“Cory (Joseph) is still a big part of what we are going to do,” head coach Dwane Casey confirmed after the win in Brooklyn on Super Bowl Sunday.

“(VanVleet) has always played well in practice. He has done well with our D-League team the 905. He is a very talented point guard, so we wanted to make sure we gave him a look.”

Casey has played VanVleet for 20+ minutes four times this season, on the road in Orlando twice, on the road in Brooklyn twice and he has looked pretty good in those games averaging 9.8 points, 3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 39.4 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from three and going 9-9 from the free throw line in his last two games.

“I thought he played well,” Casey said. “I liked the way he quarterbacked. He had 4 assists, knocked down his free throws and I thought he did a good job defensively.”

With Toronto losing eight of their past ten games coming into Sunday and several players, including Joseph, looking a little worse for wear at this point in the season, it’s hard to blame Casey for giving the rookie a chance, but with the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s equally hard to not be suspicious of the Raptors real motives here.

President Masai Ujiri put four point guards on his roster to start the 2016-17 season and now that last year’s rookie Delon Wright has three D-League games under his belt with the 905, the obvious question becomes, how does he justify keeping all four? Especially when the Raptors are so obviously thin and vulnerable at the big man spots in the rotation.

Wright has averaged 11.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks in 26.4 minutes with the 905, so his rehab assignment is going to start looking redundant real soon. If Wright is ready to come back up to the big club, Casey knows what he’s getting as Wright was starting to look NBA-ready at the end of last season.

What Ujiri is going to do about his point guard situation is unknown, but the best reason for playing VanVleet recently was to give him the information needed to make a decision. It’s hard to see all three of VanVleet, Wright and Joseph still on this roster after the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors 905 Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Deserves To Play In The NBA

It’s a scenario that plays out almost every year. A young player on an NBA team is deserving of minutes, but there is no opportunity to play on the team that drafted him and the Toronto Raptors 2015 first round draft pick Delon Wright is a perfect example. He deserves a chance to play in the NBA. So, unless something changes, finding a way to “free” Wright is going to be crossing his agent’s mind in the very near future.

Wright’s situation went from doubtful to abysmal when he injured his shoulder in NBA Summer League and the Raptors picked up the undrafted Fred VanVleet as their third string point guard. Now that Wright is finally back, he finds himself on a rehab assignment with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga and fourth on the point guard depth chart in Toronto.

Completely off the radar because he hasn’t played, Wright wasn’t sitting around moping as he waited for medical clearance to play. A shoulder injury didn’t stop him from working out and he’s been putting up shots for the better part of a month.

“I feel good,” Wright told Pro Bball Report before Christmas. “Happy to be back getting some shots up and working out.

“Nothing happened to my confidence. I don’t see not going back to what I was doing.”

And what he was doing at the end of last season was pretty impressive. 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.

In his first game back with the Raptors 905 this season, Wright managed an impressive 10 points, 4 assists, a steal and 2 blocked shots in 21 minutes as the 905 defeated Texas 114-108,  quickly shedding any rust and proving his conditioning is already pretty good.

“My minutes were limited,” Wright said after the game. “For the time I was out there, I felt good. I wasn’t too tired or anything.”

The NBA often isn’t “fair” to young players, but if Wright is lucky, some other NBA team will see the obvious potential in this 6′ 5.5″ point guard and have the need and the desire to give him minutes, plus the willingness to give Raptors president Masai Ujiri sufficient return in trade to pry him away.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

What Do The Raptors Do With Delon Wright?

It’s a question the Toronto Raptors have been able to conveniently ignore as last year’s 20th overall draft pick Delon Wright recovers from a shoulder injury incurred during NBA Summer League, but last year’s rookie point guard wasn’t a bust, so what does the team do when he gets back?

“I feel good,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “Happy to be back getting some shots up and working out.

“(I’m) like a month away. Just taking it slowly so I can be ready when I get back.”

That month will go by very quickly and the way Wright finished last season suggests there isn’t much more he can get out of the NBA D-League beyond a conditioning stint.

In 15 games with the Mississauga Raptors 905 in 2015-16, Wright averaged 17.7 points on 53.6 percent shooting and 36 percent from three-point range, 5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks in 35.7 minutes.

The 6’5.5″ guard was able to use his height effectively to see the floor and take advantage of smaller guards, but more importantly, when he was finally given some run in the NBA to give Kyle Lowry a few days off in April, those D-League numbers held up.

In four games with Toronto 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 and the Raptors won three of those games. While stats in April can be suspicious, one of those wins came against a Pacers team fighting for it’s playoff life and Wright put up a career high 19 points.

Wright is spending this last month of rehab and conditioning getting stronger. He’s going to be ready to play, if head coach Dwane Casey can find any minutes for him on a team that already has too many deserving players with too few minutes to go around.

“I’m just getting my arm stronger so when there is contact there won’t be any issues with it,” Wright said. “I’m just doing regular rehab stuff and starting to amp up my lifting. It’s no special program right now.”

And Wright believes he’ll pick back up right where he left off last year.

“Oh yeah definitely, definitely. It was an upper body injury,” Wright continued. “Nothing happened to my confidence. I don’t see not going back to what I was doing.

“I just have to get into actual game shape.”

Believe it, Wright will be back soon and he’ll be back as a player who in another program without two veteran point guards ahead of him would be playing in the NBA. Wright wasn’t a stretch pick in 2015.

There will still be a lot of season left when Wright returns and the Raptors will need a third string point guard just in case, but there is still an elephant in the room. Toronto has added undrafted point guard Fred VanVleet and the case for carrying two healthy third string guards is pretty weak. The question remains, what to do with Wright when he gets back?

Not to stir the pot, but Wright should be getting back just as the team is finally getting some real data about the likelihood of power forward/center Jared Sullinger’s return from injury for the second half of this season. If there is any doubt about Sullinger, the Raptors will be looking for trade bait to fill that hole before the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell & Delon Wright

Pacers Make Powell And Wright Look Like DeRozan And Lowry

The Indiana Pacers only needed a win in Toronto to guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason and the Raptors gave them every advantage by resting starters Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Luis Scola. Even the recently returned DeMarre Carroll sat as he isn’t playing back-to-back games yet, but instead of grabbing the win, the Pacers made rookie guards Norman Powell and Delon Wright look like Toronto’s resting All-Stars.

“I don’t think we respected the guys that were out there,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game.

The Raptors rookies combined for 46 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as they bullied their way to the free throw line for 27 attempts and Toronto coasted to a 111-98 home victory while going deep into their bench.

It was a night of personal bests by Powell and Wright.

Powell playing a season-high 41.2 minutes and blowing past his previous best scoring game (of 18 points) with 27 points on the night. Over half of those points coming at the free throw line as Powell did his best DeRozan impression by drawing fouls driving to the bucket to go 14-19 from the charity stripe. At one point Powell was 10-11 from the line, but he seemed to get a bit tired in the fourth quarter taking advantage of all the opportunities the Pacers kept presenting to him.

“The team just told me to be more aggressive with Kyle and DeMar resting,” Powell said. “I was trying to attack the rim and draw fouls.”

“One thing (Powell) did a good job of, in transition he caught them backpedaling and he’s got that other gear to go to,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey explained. “He’s one of our fastest guys on the team with the ball and he gets guys backpedaling and he does a good job of attacking and getting them in a compromised situation and getting the foul.”

Wright’s previous best was 13 points in a game and he blew that away with a 19 point night in just 26 minutes. The young point guard also had his best game from the line this season going 6-8.

“It just feels good to finally get out there and play when Kyle rests,” Wright said.

“(Wright) just needed an opportunity,” Casey said. “He’s playing behind one of the top point guards in the league in Kyle and one of the top backups in the league in Cory. He stayed ready.”

Casey was justifiably proud of the effort from his rookies.

“They came out and played,” Casey said. “That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about and that’s effort and intensity. I thought our young guys came out and played with a lot of effort and intensity.”

Powell and Wright were the top two scorers in the game. Cory Joseph was the third high scorer with 18 points as the Pacers just couldn’t find a way to slow down any of the Raptors guards.

Monta Ellis led the Pacers with 17 points in the lackluster effort.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors 905 Delon Wright

Rookie Delon Wright Is Proving Raptors 905 Works

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors invested heavily into their NBA D-League team Raptors 905 for one reason and one reason only and that’s to properly develop their draft picks.

After having to send players in the past to NBDL teams in which they had no control over how their players were developed or who the coach was, the Raptors now have that ability with 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys. Mermuys coaches the Raptors draft picks the exact same way Dwane Casey runs the show at the Air Canada Centre with the idea that players can slip right in and help the Raptors in a pinch.

This is exactly how it has worked for Raptors first round pick Delon Wright.

Wright, a guard, was the 20th overall pick in last June’s draft after spending two years with the University of Utah of the Pacific-12 Conference.

It’s easy to find gems in the draft when you have a lottery pick, the first five-to-ten picks in the first round are usually someone who can help somewhat right away. It’s those later picks where you get someone who you know is good but needs to develop their game.

On draft night Dwane Casey was very happy to get a player of Wright’s ability at the 20th spot.

“We watched a lot of film on him, ” Casey said. “Our scouts watched him intensely. He’s one of the top point guards in the draft.

“He has tremendous upside as a point guard. He reminds me of Nate MacMillan, a guy we had in Seattle who can play multiple positions.”

Wright has worn out a path driving between the Air Canada Centre and suburban Mississauga where 905’s play.

In 12 games in the D-league he has averaged 37 minutes per game, 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists. The numbers show that the potential Raptors scouting director and 905 general manager Dan Tolzman saw in him when he was beating bushes for talent in the NCAA last winter.

“Delon’s play is very solid,” Mermuys said echoing what Casey said on draft night. “I just think because he has a lot of expectations out of this organization where they are fans of his ability as a player, what we see for him in the future it’s probably going to be rare for me to come out here applauding his game, his effort just because we have extremely high expectations. I’m always going to be wanting more.”

When you talk to Wright he is an extremely soft spoken person, very polite and did not come to Toronto with an attitude. He is a rookie that knows the protocol when you come to the NBA is to keep quiet and just observe. His older brother Dorell was selected in the draft out of high school by the Miami Heat and also played with the Portland Trail Blazers, so Delon knew the drill of NBA life before he ever got there.

Wright also knows he is the NBDL for a reason and when you talk to him he is embracing it.

“I think they have me down here for a reason to help my career and try to figure out how to be better,” Wright said. “I’m working on my ball screens and to be a better leader.”

Other Raptors players have gone down to the 905 squad and have been called back to big team and have made contributions like Lucas Nogueira. That has not been lost on Wright.

“When you see a guy like Lucas, he’s been here for two years and he gets a chance to go up and play with the Raptors, I have got be ready when I get my chance,” Wright added.

The Wright selection in draft gives the Raptors insurance at the guard position. He is fourth on the depth chart behind DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph.

DeRozan is expected to opt out of his contract this summer and it’s expected the Raptors will make an offer to keep him. It’s a no brainer, but strange things happen in sports and if DeRozan does not return to Toronto, and I’m only speculating and I don’t expect that to happen, but if he doesn’t, Wright moves up the depth chart.

He can also be used as trade bait if the Raptors so see fit if they feel they are one player away from being a championship contender.

Either way the Raptors have plans for Wright and their program with the Raptors 905 is getting him ready for prime time.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors 905 Delon Wright

Raptors Rookie Delon Wright Scores 33 Points With 905

Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Delon Wright went off for 33 points on 13-22 shooting from the field in a 905 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce in Mississauga on Saturday afternoon 104-88. The Skyforce won all four quarters against the Raptors 905 in front of a huge crowd (5,209) at the Hersey Centre.

 

 

The 905 roster included two other players sent down from the Toronto Raptors, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo. Nogueira had 8 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 40 minutes. Caboclo had a very rough afternoon shooting 0-11 from the field and failing to record a point.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors 905 Delon Wright

Delon Wright Picks Up Raptors Defense Fast In The 905

Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Delon Wright has played three games with the the 905 and it’s hard not to be impressed with his instant impact. He has filled his line in the boxscore and been an impact player for 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys. However, the Raptors expected this from Wright. They drafted him because he had four years of college experience and was perceived to be more NBA ready than the typical 19 or 20 year old player the team could have drafted 20th overall.

NBA rookie Delon Wright 55

“That’s kind of his job,” Mermuys said after the 128-99 loss to Grand Rapids. “It’s hard for me to celebrate that because that is what is expected of him and really the expectations for him and for our organization from top down are higher than that. Coming down and being a starting point guard and representing our (Toronto) Raptors team, we expect to be winning. We expect him to be leading us and winning games. Although he did play hard through and we appreciate that, that is what we expect from him, so that’s nothing special. I would like to see him come down and lead us in supplying winning basketball and he definitely can’t do that by himself, but that’s the expectation.”

It’s going to be hard for Wright to impress Mermuys. His line of 15 points on 6-11 shooting from the field plus 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals isn’t anything special for a player on an NBA contract in the D-League. He’s here to develop the skills Raptors head coach Dwane Casey believes he needs so it might be possible to play him in an NBA game at some point.

The positive news from Wright’s third D-League tilt was Mermuys saw a marked improvement in what is perhaps the most important skill a rookie point guard needs to develop.

“The only positive right now I can think of was Delon Wright was much better at getting into the basketball on his pick-and-roll defense and that was an issue in his first two games,” Mermuys said. “I can visibly look in my head right now and watch him defend pick-and-rolls, seeing him more aggressive into the basketball which is a big positive for our organization. That’s a pretty quick turnaround in a short period of time, so that was nice to see, a bright spot.”

The Raptors lost to Grand Rapids almost entirely because of their 24 turnovers that became 37 points.  Grand Rapids feasted on bad passes around the perimeter that they turned into easy fast break points. The good news for the Raptors was Wright didn’t have any of them.

Having a D-League team in Mississauga has been particularly good for Wright and the other players assigned by the Raptors to get playing time. They are close enough to be part of both teams, go to both Raptors and 905 games and practices. This could be the best investment the Raptors have ever made when it comes to developing players.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Gets What He Needs In The 905

Toronto Raptors sent rookie point guard Delon Wright to the NBA D-League for some badly needed playing time and while he may (or may not) like it, he has been getting what he needs in the 905.

In his two D-League games, Wright has averaged 37 minutes, 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1 block. He’s been an unstoppable scorer, shooting 73.9 percent from the field and 75 percent from three. These are all very encouraging signs as Wright still hasn’t connected on a field goal attempt in his four NBA appearances.

Delon Wright arms wide

“It’s been fine, just to get some run, gain experience,” Wright told Pro Bball Report after his last game with the 905. “Just using it as a learning situation.”

905 head coach Jesse Mermuys made it crystal clear that when the Raptors sent players to Mississauga they were going to get a lot of attention and playing time. His first priority is giving the players sent down to him whatever it is Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wants.

“(Coach Mermuys) is putting me in a lot of pick-and-roll and stuff and starting the offense,” Wright explained. “From there he let’s me make my decisions, play-making. We are doing the same types of things we are doing with (the Raptors), so hopefully it translates.”

While there isn’t going to be a lot of opportunities for Wright to play in Toronto with Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph ahead of him on the depth chart, it only takes a minor injury or illness for Casey to need his third string point guard. The 905 makes it possible for Wright to practice his team’s plays in game situations without Casey having to put him on the court in a game that counts. Having a team-owned D-League affiliate could really pay off later this season for both Wright and Casey.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Toronto Raptors Delon WrightDelon Wright Near Triple-Double With Raptors 905

Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Delon Wright just missed the triple-double in his second game with the 905 as he scored 20 points on 8-14 shooting from the field and 2-3 from three-point range to go with 8 dimes, 8 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 37 minutes of action.