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Delon Wright Player Preview: Familiarity and a Steady Presence

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A former Raptors point guard under Dwane Casey, Wright could see a resurgence this season with the Pistons

Delon Wright
Delon Wright
Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

In an offseason headlined by a flurry of moves, one that does not get talked about much is the acquisition of Delon Wright. The former first-round pick of the Toronto Raptors in 2015 spent his first couple seasons under the tutelage of Dwane Casey.

He spent his three-plus years in Toronto as a bench contributor and getting better every season. With the presence of Kyle Lowry and the emergence of Fred VanVleet, it’s no surprise he was the forgotten man. Eventually, the Raptors no longer had a need for Wright as they shipped him to Memphis as a part of the Marc Gasol trade.

Wright was given an opportunity for more playing time in Memphis, and he took advantage averaging career-highs across the board in 30 minutes per game over the 26 games with the Grizzlies. He averaged 12.2 points, 5.3 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 steals, which included triple-doubles in back-to-back games. He did only shoot 26%from 3-point range and 43%from the field.

Wright’s solid numbers to close out the season in Memphis led to a three-year, $28 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks to be their possible starting point guard. That never came to fruition as he only started five out of 73 games played (someone named Luka Doncic had a little something to do with that). Wright did not play in two of the Mavericks playoff games and only played over 20 minutes in one, a blowout loss to the Clippers in Game 4.

Just because Wright fell out of favor in Dallas, does not mean he has nothing to offer the rebuilding Pistons.

Offensive Role

Wright is a point guard, but he is more than capable of playing off the ball. With the Pistons looking to give Killian Hayes as much as he can handle and Derrick Rose still being on the roster, I would expect Wright to get most of his minutes at shooting guard, especially with the uncertainty at that position.

In the event that Rose gets traded, Wright becomes the all-important veteran point guard that the Pistons will want to have around to mentor Hayes. We are assuming Rose is going to be around until at least the trade deadline, so Wright becomes the defacto backup shooting guard/third-string point guard ... or even starting shooting guard?

Wright is not a lethal shooter by any means, and that could create some lineup problems when playing him alongside Rose or Hayes. Wright is a career 34% shooter from three on only 1.8 attempts per game. That is not, “let Delon shoot wide open 3s” bad, but it is not ideal for somebody who will likely be sharing a backcourt with Rose and Hayes.

Wright is an average pick-and-roll ball handler. He averaged 0.88 points per possession out of the pick-and-roll last season. Those numbers had him in the 60th percentile in the league. He has pretty much hung right around there most of his career, so I wouldn’t expect anything more out of him as a pick-and-roll ball handler.

Wright is a combo guard through and through, but in the context of the Pistons, he doesn’t excel at some of the stuff they need out of their shooting guards. He shot 36% on catch-and-shoot 3s last season, which is once again not terrible, but not quite good enough in an offense that will likely be running through Blake Griffin, Rose, and Hayes. Looking at the Pistons roster as currently constructed, shooting is going to be an issue at basically every position, so you can’t knock Wright too much for being a slightly below-average shooter.

He’s going to play the two in order to get another ball-handler on the court that can distribute the ball a bit, which is something that Casey really likes to do. It is also one of the reasons why Wright wanted to come to Detroit.

Rose did have a career-high 40.5 assist percentage last season, but he functions better as a scorer who can put his head down and attack. By pairing up Wright with Rose off the bench, it will allow Rose to focus more on what he is elite at, attacking the rim, while Wright can be the secondary ballhandler and handle more of the distribution role. His 20.7 assist percentage points to somebody that can distribute the ball, but would be much better in a secondary role.

Wright has only averaged one turnover per game during his career and has a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio, so he does a pretty good job of taking care of the ball and his assist average points to somebody better served in a secondary ballhandler role more so than your primary distributor.

Defensive Role

I wouldn’t call Wright’s defense elite or anything, but it’s not terrible. Outside of his rookie season, he has never had a Defensive BPM in the negatives (it was -0.3 his rookie year). The lowest DBPM he has had outside of that season is 1.2. His career average is 1.6.

If defensive rating is more of your thing, his career defensive rating is 107.

He is a functional team defender that has the size to handle either backcourt position defensively. I don’t think he’s a good enough defender to cover for all of Rose’s defensive lapses, but the two will pair up well offensively as mentioned above.

Wright has averaged a steal per game in his career, which points to somebody that will defend their position, but not really be a huge disruptor.

He’s 6-foot-5 with an identical wingspan and only weighs 185 pounds, so he is going to struggle more defensively when facing bigger wings, which will happen more if he is playing shooting guard (or even playing the “three” in a three-guard lineup as Casey has mentioned as a possibility). He is better defensively at point guard where he has more of a size advantage.

The Pistons offseason moves point towards a team that will want to switch more, so they will want length at every position to accomplish that. Wright fits that with his height, but he doesn’t have extremely long arms like some of the other wings that GM Troy Weaver has added.

Wright is somebody that Casey can trust on defense and will be able to defend either backcourt position depending on who he is paired with on the court.

Intangibles

The biggest intangibles that Wright brings is experience playing under Casey. He began his career under Casey’s eye, so he knows what kinds of things Casey expects out of players. With so many young players on the team, that will be very valuable, but it will be especially valuable for Hayes.

It is not necessarily an intangible, but Wright also wants to be here and according to him, has wanted to come to Detroit for a couple years.

It is that familiarity with Casey that has drawn him to Detroit, but you cannot place value on players actually wanting to be here. Especially on a young team that is not expected to be very good. Having veterans that want to be around and can teach the younger players professional habits is invaluable.

Projected Role

As mentioned above, I see Wright slotting in as the backup shooting guard and third point guard who is able to spell either one of the other Pistons point guards while also being able to play with either one.

Wright knows his role and has familiarity with Casey. Because of both of those factors, I see him as being a regular part of the rotation. There aren’t really any prospects outside of Hayes and Svi Mykhauliuk that play his positions, so there won’t be much of a reason for him to lose playing time to develop other younger players. Plus, you know Casey is not going to just trot out a lineup of all young guys and tank this season. He has his veterans and they are going to play.

Wright is a solid bench player who will become more valuable in the event that Rose is traded.