Delon Wright won't be able to suit up for the Toronto Raptors when the 2016-17 season tips off on Oct. 26 at the Air Canada Centre, but the sophomore's progress once he returns to the court will be of great importance to the team.
Wright suffered a shoulder injury back in July while playing in Summer League and has since undergone arthroscopic shoulder stabilization surgery. It's estimated he will be out until the end of December or beginning of January.
So why is the third-string point guard going to be someone to closely monitor for the Raptors this year? There is a pretty sizeable elephant in the room with Kyle Lowry's contract status beyond this season. The all-star will opt out of his $12 million deal and look to make bank with a max (or close to it) contract. He's made it clear he wants to return to Toronto, but as anyone who's ever dealt with unrequited love surely knows, you don't always get what you desire.
If Lowry is locked up long-term, Wright would remained buried on the depth chart as backup Cory Joseph is under contract through 2018-19, albeit with a player option for that final season. Wright would become a bit of a redundancy at that point, and is already 24 years old. If he shows signs of being able to handle steady minutes, he could become an enticing piece for the Raptors to package in a trade.
However, if Toronto is unable to work something out with Lowry, Wright figures to become even more crucial for Dwane Casey's club as he would presumably slide into the rotation moving forward.
So how did Wright fare in his rookie season? Like every young player who sees the bulk of his minutes in garbage time, his numbers don't jump out. After all, it's hard to stuff the stat sheet when you're only seeing the court for a few minutes a week, if that. The Utah product averaged 3.8 points and 1.1 assists in 8.5 minutes per game.
However, he did entice with his performances down the stretch a season ago. Over his final four games, he averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 assists. Two of those outings came against the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, but the other two opponents were the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers.
When Wright wasn't up with the big club, he was honing his craft down in the D-League with Raptors 905. The first-round draft pick was a force to be reckoned with against the inferior competition, going off for 17.7 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds over 15 games. Using his combination of skill and size, Wright was able to impose his will to the tune of 54 per cent shooting from the field. He's demonstrated the ability the get to the rim, and has a respectable jumper.
Once he returns from injury, Wright will likely bounce between the Raptors and Raptors 905 once again. But wherever he lands, his progress is certainly something fans and the organization alike should keep their eyes on.