The idiosyncratic Delon Wright

Title: The idiosyncratic Delon Wright
Date: July 15, 2015
Original Source: Raptors Republic
Synopsis: This article broke down Raptors first-round pick Delon Wright, pulling tape from his college season and summer league performance.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, Delon Wright missed Monday’s Las Vegas Summer League game due to a sore right hamstring. Following full profiles of Bruno Caboclo and Norman Powell in the first two games, the plan called for Wright to get that treatment after theToronto Raptors took care of the Houston Rockets.

Not surprisingly, the Raptors struggled to find their offensive footing early without Wright, coughing up the ball 11 times in a 14-point first quarter. They lacked cohesion, they played out of control, and while they eventually settled down, the path to baskets was more arduous than it had been in the first two games. Wright was solid in those games, scoring 19 points on 16 field goal attempts, dishing 11 dimes, and grabbing four rebounds and three steals. He got to the line effectively, only committed two turnovers, and his troublesome 0-of-4 mark from outside was really the only complaint you could lodge.

Because free agency opened so quickly after the draft, the chance never arose to finish and publish the post-draft scouting report on Wright that I had prepared. I had went back and watched a bunch of Utah video, re-watched their battle with Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, and dug further into Wright’s profiles (as a reminder – I’m our draft lead at theScore, so I was already well-versed with most prospects in the draft, Wright included). With two strong Summer League games submitted and a bunch of material that never got published, consider what follows a post-draft scouting report on Wright, solidified with some recent Vegas highlights.

And man, is Wright unique.

I hate player comparables in general, but it would be particularly tough to come up with one for a skinny 6-foot-5 point guard who never drives the same way twice, jitters all over the court, in and out through seams in the defenses, and willingly bounces off of defenders as you’d expect from someone built far more solid. He’s a very interesting study and comes across as someone difficult to gameplan for, as his success is based a great deal on seeing angles and reading the movement of the opposition, rather than a particularly singular skill or ability.

The first thing that stands out after a few possessions, particularly in transition, is that Wright varies his speed to throw defenders off in pursuit or catch them backtracking too aggressively. This is something Raptors fans should be familiar with from the Jose Calderon days – straight-line speed is great, but varying the pace of an attack and introducing stutter-steps and hesitation dribbles can be just as effective in opening up space in the teeth of a defense.

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Aiding him in that same regard – and this will come up again on defense – is that Wright has great anticipation. He has a knack for reading the bodies of defenders, knowing when they’re on their heels, or when their weight is off balance, and using that as an opportunity to gain an edge.

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It’s not just speed that Wright will vary. He’s almost the anti-Norman Powell in terms of drives, never taking a straight line to any point, instead opting to float in and out of alternate pathways as openings present themselves. Raptors fans may have grown tired of watching players coax defenders into fouls, but dribbling like an amoeba is an effective way to get to the line, one of Wright’s primary strengths.

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He’s not perfect in this regard, of course. He has a tendency to pick up his dribble too early, particularly with his back toward the basket. He’s creative enough and sees the floor well enough to get out of some of these situations, but it’s a bad habit that pops up occasionally.

The more complex the movements and the more steps in the path, the more room there is for error. Wright is generally lauded for his composure and playing in control, and we’ve seen that so far, but defenses are likely to instruct their back-end defenders to employ active hands to combat the constant compass changes, and they’ll get physical with Wright to discourage him from inviting contact.

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One of the major knocks against Wright was his weight, which stood at 181 pounds at the combine. That could leave him susceptible against bigger guards on defense and limits his potential to play the two to a degree, despite a 6-foot-7 wingspan. It also renders him unlikely to finish well in traffic against NBA defenses.

He has a handful of tricks to try to work around this. He uses his length well to protect the ball, holding it very high at the peak of his jump, something that should make him more difficult to block.

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He’ll also bounce away from help defenders as he gathers, which is both good and bad. It may limit his chances of getting blocked, and he looks in control as he fades or leans from contact, but it also increases the difficulty of the shots he’s taking.

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Wright’s also developed an awesome floater game. Seriously, I’d add a caveat or worry about him getting them off over length, but it’s such a fun weapon, I don’t want to. (That’s called “journalistic integrity” in the biz.)

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It’s great that Wright has all these nifty tricks to score in close despite a strength deficiency and draw fouls, because the bulk of his scoring comes insider the 3-point line.

The biggest offensive concern with Wright is whether or not he’ll be able to knock down the NBA triple. The shot itself doesn’t look bad, but he’s incredibly hesitant pulling it up off the dribble, and even in summer league, he’s seemed to be looking for a driving lane when a defender goes under a screen. He’ll need to get far more decisive letting it fly when given that space and, probably more importantly for his rookie season, more confident quickly releasing catch-and-shoot jumpers. The Raptors employ Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph, and Wright’s going to need to play alongside them to get run a as a freshman. I think they can comfortably get away with it on defense already, but they’re shaky spacing duos – Joseph has had success in small samples, Lowry hit 35.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot looks (a little below average), and it’s the biggest concern with Wright’s offense.

His two years at Utah were encouraging in terms of the development of his stroke. He shot 22.6 percent from outside in 2013-14, then 33.3 percent in Nov-Dec of 2014-15, then 36.7 percent from January on. They’re all small samples, but they’re trending in the right direction. His strong free-throw shooting also suggests that he may eventually improve, as free-throw shooting adds predictive value in determining future 3-point percentage for college players.

It’s also possible Wright will lead as a ball-handler even in some two-point guard lineups. The Raptors love sets with dual pick-and-roll threats, and Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams thrived operating dribble hand-offs and swings to get a defense moving horizontally before one of them attacked.

Wright’s a solid ball-handler and a very creative passer. One of the benefits of being a tall point guard is being able to see over defenders more easily, and Wright uses that to his advantage. In concert with his long arms, he’s able to find and execute through difficult passing lanes.

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He’ll also vary the height at which he’s dribbling to see through help defense, get defenders crouching, and then pop up for a quick dish.

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That includes keeping his gather high, allowing him to swing over and around defenders, particularly in transition. He has a solid Eurostep game, and it’s a primary asset in drawing disorganized help, creating easy baskets for others.

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And in general, he’s a creative passer with a really good feel for passing lanes and the timing of cutters and dive men.

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A lot of the same assets that present themselves on offense show up on defense, too. Much the same way Wright extends high to try to finish in traffic or protect the ball when gathering in transition, he extends well when rebounding, and he’s one of more productive rebounding guards in the draft.

The same timing and anticipation he shows driving and passing manifests itself on defense. “Feel for the game” is a tough thing to describe and capture, but Wright decidedly has it. His ability to read the play leads to a lot of his steals – he’ll get some on the ball, too, but he also takes calculated gambles when he sees a player starting to pick up his dribble with the ball unprotected, or the opportunity to jump a passing lane arises. The latter particularly applies in the backcourt, where he’s a hawk on inbound plays like that annoying friend in 2K.

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His strength will be a concern, both on the ball and fighting through screens, but he’s game to try, and he’ll hit the deck to draw a charge.

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His length also helps him closing out on shots, and Wright averaged more than a block per game over his two years at Utah. He blocked 3.5 percent of opponent 2-point field goal attempts when he was on the court, 25th among all players classified as guards who played 500 minutes over those two seasons.

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There remain concerns with Wright. That should be obvious, considering he went 20th overall. He’s 23 and a senior, which teams take to mean the upside is limited. The fact that his numbers declined some in 2014-15 is a little concerning considering his usage rate climbed, though Utah also played at a slower pace, and Wright’s per-100 possession numbers weren’t all that different. His 2-point percentage dropping off is alarming given the trouble some see him having finishing at the NBA level, and his bag of tricks may not work against the longest and smartest defenders. The clearest areas for Wright to work on are his strength and his 3-point shot. It doesn’t matter how herky-jerky your attack, an 82-game schedule is going to be hell at 181 pounds, and bulking up would help him in his areas of strength (drawing fouls) and weaknesses (finishing, fighting through screens).

We need to see more from Wright in an NBA setting to better understand him. When you’re primary assets are feel for the game and basketball IQ, the biggest litmus test is applying those assets against the very top competition. Summer league isn’t that, and while Wright playing surgically is a positive, we don’t really know more than we did a week ago.

The Raptors were said to be very high on Wright, even though they felt the need to add a high-priced backup point guard, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The defense is there, he’s a smart pick-and-roll operator, he’s a lot of fun on the move, and he has the smarts and savvy that make it clear why he was thought to be “NBA-ready” (as much as anyone can be, which is not very much outside of the very elite prospects). it should be fun to see how he responds to better, longer, stronger defenders and more intricate defensive schemes at the next level.

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