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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 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.




Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Delon 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.


The fans at the Hersey Centre were treated to an exciting game with a boatload of scoring. The 905 leading the Delaware 87ers 90-85 thru three-quarters, but fortunately they gave up a 40 point fourth quarter to the visitors and fell 125-109.

Toronto Raptors forward Bruno Caboclo had 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 37.6 minutes, but his shooting struggles continued as he shot just 6-20 from the field. Caboclo did hit on 4-11 three-point attempts. Raptors training camp invitee Ronald Roberts Jr had a team-high 22 points to go with 9 rebounds, a steal and 3 blocks. After the game, Roberts said he was impressed with the strong fan support in Mississauga.

The 905 are back in action Saturday, December 5 when the club plays host to the Grand Rapids 87ers at home in Mississauga at 2 p.m.



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.




Press Release:

RECAP: DELAWARE 87ERS – 125, RAPTORS 905 – 109

Delaware’s Kilpatrick records game-high 37 points

           Delaware 87ers guard Sean Kilpatrick recorded 16 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter to lift his team to a 125-109 comeback win over Raptors 905 Sunday afternoon at Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

          Raptors 905 jumped out to a 37-23 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 16 at one point midway through the second quarter, but the 87ers went on a 13-5 run to finish off the second frame and cut the deficit to 58-52 at halftime. From there, Delaware put up 73 second-half points and outscored Raptors 905 40-19 in the final period to seal the comeback win.

          In addition to Kilpatrick’s 37 points for the 87ers, Jordan McRae had 31 points to go with a game-high nine assists and eight rebounds, while Ladarius White (13), David Laury (13) and Gary Talton each had double-digit points off the bench and John Bohannon had a game-high 12 rebounds. For Raptors 905, Ronald Roberts had team-highs in points (22) and rebounds (nine), while Delon Wright registered 20 points, a team-high eight assists and eight rebounds. Bruno Caboclo (17), Axel Toupane (17) and Jay Harris (10) rounded out the offensive leaders for Raptors 905.

          Raptors 905 led Delaware in points in the paint (50-46) and second-chance points (25-15), while the 87ers led in field goal percentage (48.8-42.7), three point percentage (52.0-35.5), free throw percentage (77.8-61.5) and fast-break points (20-14).

Raptors 905 is back in action Saturday, December 5 when the club plays host to the Grand Rapids 87ers at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 2 p.m.



NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Delon Wright Dominates In D-League Debut

The Toronto Raptors sent rookie point guard Delon Wright across town to play for the Raptors 905 in Mississauga and the rookie point guard had a dominating offensive performance in his NBA D-League debut. Wright shot 9-9 from the field and 5-5 from the line in 37.5 minutes to lead his team with 24 points as the 905 won their second game of the season, a 93-91 victory over the Idaho Stampede. Wright firing the pass to a wide-open Scott Suggs for the game-winning three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left.



“It was good to finally get some playing time and I was happy that we won,” Wright said.

Wright hasn’t seen much playing time in Toronto as the third string point guard behind Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph and unless someone gets hurt, this isn’t a situation that’s about to change.

“It’s tough,” Wright said. “It’s part of being a pro. It’s tough not playing. Just have to come in every day and continue to work hard, control what you can control and get better.”

Raptors forward Bruno Caboclo is also playing with the 905 and he had a better shooting night than in most of his previous D-League starts going 5-9 from the field for 12 points to go with 5 boards in 19 minutes of action. The local 7’5 giant Sim Bhullar was on the court for 13.2 minutes and contributed 7 points and 3 rebounds as he works himself into game shape.

The 905 victory was overshadowed by the Raptors big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers that was happening at the same time at the Air Canada Center. However, these D-League games are important contests for the Raptors players assigned to Mississauga. They need to play and advance their skills and conditioning in case they are needed later in the season.

The next game for the 905 is against the Delaware 87ers at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 2 p.m on Sunday.



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.




Press Release:


Delon Wright records game-high 24 points in NBA D-League debut

Raptors 905 guard Scott Suggs hit a three-point shot with 6.4 seconds to play to break an 89-89 tie and put Raptors 905 ahead for good in a 93-91 win over the Idaho Stampede Wednesday night at Hershey Centre in Mississauga. The victory was Raptors 905’s first at home in franchise history.

Raptors 905 jumped out to a 57-37 lead at the half, buoyed by a 30-12 second quarter. In the first two quarters, Raptors 905 shot 66.7 percent (22-for-33) from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range (5-for-11). Delon Wright, in his first NBA Development League game, shot six-for-six from the field, one-for-one from three-point range and three-for-three from the foul line for 16 points at halftime.

Idaho went on a 12-0 run to start second half and carried the eight-point deficit into the fourth quarter. Raptors 905 regained a 14-point lead in the final period, before the Stampede came roaring back to tie the game with 1:16 to play.

Wright’s shooting stayed perfect in the second half as he finished nine-for-nine from the field and five-for-five on free throws to finish with a shared game-high of 24 points. Also reaching double digits in points for Raptors 905 were Scott Suggs (20), Bruno Caboclo (12) and Ronald Roberts (11). Roberts added a game-high 13 rebounds to complete the double-double in his season debut. He missed the previous five games with a sprained ankle.

Sharing the game high in points with Wright was Idaho’s Jack Cooley, who also finished with a team-high 12 rebounds for his club’s only double-double. Other top offensive producers for the Stampede included Brandon Fields (20 points, nine assists), J.J. O’Brien (14 points) and EJ Singler (12 points).

Raptors 905 led Idaho in field goal percentage (50.8-42.2), free throw percentage (74.2-57.1) and fast-break points (8-4), while the Stampede led in three-point percentage (34.6-31.6), points in the paint (44-38) and second-chance points (13-4).

Raptors 905 is back in action Sunday, Nov. 29 when the club plays host to the Delaware 87ers at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 2 p.m.



NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright

Raptors Rookie Delon Wright To Play In Mississauga

The Toronto Raptors have assigned rookie guard Delon Wright to their NBA D-League affiliate Mississauga Raptors 905.

Wright had only played a total of 10 minutes in 4 games with the Raptors so far this season with little to show for it. He was 0-4 shooting from the field with 0 points, assists, steals, blocks and free throw attempts, plus 1 turnover and 1 personal foul. Wright did manage to collect 4 rebounds.

Powell & Wright web

Head coach Dwane Casey has shown significantly more interest in playing his other rookie guard Norman Powell who has played 55 minutes in 8 games and has contributed 10 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Powell still looks like a rookie, but he has been making an impression with boundless youthful exuberance.

The Raptors took Wright 20th overall in the draft because he looked more NBA ready than the alternatives and they needed a third string point guard. That assessment could still prove to be correct, but Wright needs to play and the Raptors 905 will give him that opportunity.

“You have to be comfortable really fast,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “Just because it’s a long season. Injuries happen, different things happen so you can’t just think you got the whole year to be ready. You got to get ready kind of fast so when your time comes you can’t be dragging, you got to help the team out.”

The young point guard is going to get a lot of minutes with the 905 according to head coach Jesse Mermuys. One of Mermuys’  top priorities is to get the Raptors players assigned to him ready to play for Coach Casey as quickly as possible.

“I have already explained to Shannon (Scott) in front of the team, you can be getting a triple-double down here, (but) if Delon (Wright) comes down, he is going to play,” Mermuys said. “And that’s okay because that is why we all are here and have this opportunity.

“We are really going to do the best we can as a coaching staff to keep development at the forefront of our mind game in and game out.”

Wright is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night when Raptors 905 hosts the Idaho Stampede at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.



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

Raptors Rookies And Sophomores Chances Fading Fast

The NBA preseason can represent a chance for inexperienced rookies and sophomores to make an impression on coaches and on a team like the Raptors where there are really no open spots in the rotation, it can be the last chance before an eventual assignment to the Raptors 905 in the NBA D-League. With preseason rapidly coming to a conclusion, the opportunities for rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell and sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira to make an impression are fading fast.

“(Powell) is making a lot of mistakes like all rookies, but that’s what preseason is for – to give those guys minutes – Bruno (Caboclo) minutes, Norm (Powell) minutes, Delon (Wright) minutes, all those guys minutes,” explained head coach Dwane Casey. “(They) probably won’t be in the rotation when it becomes real, but this was a great time for those guys to get the experience, to get a taste of the NBA. For Delon to go against a guy like Andre Miller who’s a 20-year vet is a great experience for him. For Bruno to go against Tayshaun Prince is a great experience for him. So that’s what it’s for. No more, no less.”

Casey has been through the very rough patches that come with developing very young players and as the returning Atlantic Division winner with an available rotation of young and not so young veterans, he isn’t going to have a lot of patience for guys that he expects to make a lot of mistakes.

Guys like guard Norman Powell, who plays with a lot of energy and aggressiveness, but has a lot to learn. Powell has earned more playing time in the preseason than anyone else not expected to crack the rotation, averaging 16 minutes per game and 7 points on 44.4 percent shooting. It’s impossible not to notice him on the court, but as far as the Raptors rotation goes, he’s behind DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph. However, Powell is someone to watch this season, especially if Toronto runs into some injury problems with a couple of guards.

Wright has averaged 10 minutes a game so far in preseason and those veteran guards he’s gone up against have – on occasion – given him the rookie treatment. Wright looked great in summer league, but preseason play is well below the level of the regular season and it’s shown he still needs some more seasoning before being turned loose in a real game.

Caboclo has averaged 15 minutes in four preseason games and has looked a lot better than he did at the end of last season. He is showing more confidence and a better understanding of were he should be on the court. If the Raptors were a rebuilding team, he’d see a lot of minutes, but on this team, he needs to get his experience down the road in Mississauga.

Unfortunately, Nogueira is hurt again and that has to be a concern. The sophomore has a history of hamstring and groin injuries that have prevented the athletic 7-footer from displaying his potential. He needs to get and stay healthy, if only to work on his game with the Raptors 905.

Casey has made it clear not to read too much into anything you’ve seen in preseason to-date. These are not necessarily the combinations or rotations he’ll use in the regular season. “Normal” rotations won’t really be in effect until the final two preseason games against the Cavaliers in Toronto and the Wizards in Washington.

“I wouldn’t look at anything as far as rotations go,” Casey said. “We are just trying to get guys some minutes on the court more so than combinations or anything like that.

“Last couple of games (you’ll see real lineups), I’d say. We probably do it more in practice than in these games.”

Nothing here is really a surprise. Preseason is longer than necessary. Veteran players use the preseason to try out some things and shake off the rust. Coaches use the preseason to get a look at the young players under contract and guys on training camp invites they might need later in the season, next season or just to keep tabs on them.

As expected, none of the young guys has taken a spot in the rotation away from from a veteran during preseason and their chances for doing so are fading fast, but there’s a long regular season coming. Someone, at some point, for some yet to be determined reason, is going to get their shot.



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

Raptors Rookie Delon Wright Knows A Good Thing When He Sees It

The Raptors took a pair of college seniors in this year’s draft in part because they should be more NBA ready. However, as impressive as Delon Wright and Norman Powell were in Summer League and hopefully will continue to show progress during preseason, there is really no way for any rookie to really know what he has gotten himself into at the NBA level until he plays in some real games.


Delon Wright interview:


“I don’t honestly,” Wright told Pro Bball Report. “I am just trying to learn as much as possible. I don’t know what I am getting into, but I know it’s a good thing.”

Both of these players have shown the right kind of attitude and effort that confirms the Raptors drafted well. However, even with the advantage of having a brother (Dorell Wright) in the NBA and playing four years in college, there’s a huge difference between being told about the league, playing with pros in the summer and actually being on the big stage yourself. Things happen fast now. This isn’t like college and Wright knows it.

“Where college is more of a month long process, this is a one week process and the season is here,” Wright said. “You got to be more prepared.

“Overall with the younger guys they taught us the defensive schemes, how to play the pick and roll, little things like that. They didn’t pinpoint one thing, there was a lot of things to expect.”

All rookies lack experience, but Toronto has someone who has been here before and had to fight for playing time. Cory Joseph didn’t have anything handed to him in San Antonio and spent much of his first two NBA seasons on the bench or in the D-League before making a significant impact on a veteran-laden team in years three and four.

“We’ve talked,” Wright said. “We’ve been around each other for about two weeks now.

“If I have question. If he sees something. He can show me the way. Besides that, I think experience will be the best helper.”

Both Wright and Powell know where they sit on the Raptors depth chart and bearing a number of injuries to the regular rotation players, minutes after preseason are more likely to be found in Mississauga with the Raptors 905 than at the Air Canada Centre. Until then, these Raptors rookies should be a lot of fun to watch.



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.




Delon Wright 55 web 2Raptors Rookie Delon Wright Is NBA Ready Now

“He is a little older than your normal 19 or 20-year-old coming in today, but that’s good,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a kid that’s been around the NBA, knows the NBA, talked about the NBA with his brother.”



Norman PowellRaptors Athletic Scorer And Defender Norman Powell

“My toughness and defense, that’s something that translates to the NBA really well and my athleticism, I am able to get up into guys and create on the break and finish at the rim and at the free throw line. Athleticism and defense are things you can go on from day one and compete.





Raptors Should Target Free Agent Forward Dorell Wright

The Toronto Raptors roster is set save for one open position that could either go to another young player expected to head immediately to the NBA D-League or an NBA veteran who could mentor and fill in as needed during the regular season. With rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell already signed and sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira returning, one might expect the decision about what type of player would prove to be the most useful next season should be a no-brainer.

Of course President and General Manager Masai Ujiri could just leave the 15th roster spot open, but with the team so far below the luxury tax line that there is no chance of getting there, picking up a minimum salary player who could prove useful just seems like the logical thing to do.

The Raptors own free agent Tyler Hansbrough is still out there and he proved his worth last season as a young veteran player who willingly played out of position at center and always hustled no matter the role or the minutes Head coach Dwane Casey gave him. The 29-year-old should be holding out for a chance to join a team that at least has a backup role of some kind he could fill. The Raptors just don’t have any minutes for him and would likely give Nogueira first shot at any that did come available. Still Hansbrough would be a great practice player if he wants the job?

However, there is another intriguing 29-year-old veteran who might eventually find a role or at least provide support to the rookies and a very interesting story line. Dorell Wright is an 11-year NBA veteran who won a championship with the Heat as a young player. The brother of Raptors rookie Delon is a three-point shooting backup small forward who has averaged 36.5 percent on 3.1 three-point attempts over his NBA career.

Dorell missed the end of last season with Portland when he broke his left hand. The injury eventually needed surgery, but he was back on the court in early June, so it would be safe to assume he’s likely going to be ready by the start of the season.

Dorell has already been active in helping his younger brother Delon with the transition to the NBA and it has become apparent their is a lot of family support available for the Raptors rookie – support that would only be stronger if Dorell was playing in Toronto. Dorell only played three games with the Heat as a rookie and just 20 games the next season before getting his chance to finally contribute meaningful minutes the year after his team won a championship. He has real life experience that could benefit all of the Raptors rookies and sophomores.

Like Hansbrough, Dorell Wright would have to be comfortable without a spot in the rotation at the start of the season and accept mentoring younger players that would get the first crack at minutes if injuries opened up some playing time.

Deciding what to do with a team’s 15th roster spot shouldn’t be critical on a team expecting to win a Division title and it’s not. However, any small advantage a final player coming into a team can provide that might help down the road should get some serious consideration.



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.