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Player Review: Remembering the odd man out Delon Wright

After hitting a few road bumps to start his NBA career, Delon Wright was a pleasant surprise for the Raptors in 2016-17

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, many Raptors fans didn’t think much of Delon Wright. After all, Kyle Lowry had already begun his descent into the upper-tier of the NBA’s top point guards and hometown boy Cory Joseph returned north of the border as a free-agent weeks after Wright was drafted. But two years later, Wright has quietly developed into a very serviceable player for the Dinos.

The younger brother of ex-NBA player Dorrell Wright, Delon underwent arthroscopic shoulder stabilization to fix a labral tear in his right shoulder in early August, ruling him out of action for four months. Upon returning to the team, Wright proceeded to play 27 games for the Raps — the same amount as his rookie year — with the bulk of that time coming after Lowry’s season-ending injury in the stretch run of the campaign.

In more than 16 minutes of work per night, Wright averaged 5.6 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 42.2 percent from the floor with the club. In nine postseason contests, he upped that number to 52.9 percent while getting 10.2 minutes per game.

“I haven’t played too much so guys haven’t seen much of me,” he told reporters during a stretch of solid play in early March. “I hope they don’t realize it, and I can keep getting away with it.”

Wright has certainly passed the audition for more playing time, and the Raptors’ point guard situation is hazy with the impending unrestricted free-agency of Lowry and the up-and-down season Joseph endured. But how the front office handles that remains to be seen.

The Good

Wright stands tall at 6’5” with a 6’7” wingspan, and his 190 lbs frame makes him deceptively quick. He’s been a plus defender since his days at Utah, and he has a knack for catching shooters off-guard which has resulted in a surprising amount of blocks (11 in 2016-17).

The Los Angeles native was brought in to be a defense-first guard, and that’s exactly what he’s done so far. He uses his length to pile up deflections at a ridiculous rate. Wright collected 2.7 deflections per game this year, which is especially impressive considering his minimal playing time. Wright led the league in deflections per minute — topping Robert Covington, the leader in the Association in deflections per game, by a small margin.

Off the ball, he posted a fantastic 94.9 defensive rating on the season. His defensive real plus minus is also sparkling at +0.86 — good enough for sixth in the Association among point guards. Simply put, there is a lot to like here.

The Bad

At the age of 25, Wright has played in just 54 NBA games. To put that into perspective, he’s older than Jonas Valanciunas, Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, Bebe Nogueira, Norman Powell and his college teammate Jakob Poeltl.

Wright was never known for his shooting prowess, and he’ll have to work on his shot if he wants to truly develop into a serviceable point guard. He isn’t much of a threat in the pick-and-roll for that reason and he needs to become a better floor spacer when playing off the ball.

His field goal percentage on drives is 43.8 percent, which is near the bottom of the league for guards with at least five drives per game.

The Grade: B+

There’s no denying Wright’s talent, and it’s not out of the question for him to carve out a role with Toronto if he can stay healthy. If he can improve as a shooter, he could very well project into a Patrick Beverly-type player with a skill set that’s desired around the league.

A lot of the importance of Wright rests on the future of Lowry. If the All-Star decides to depart the franchise for greener pastures in the offseason, Wright’s role will likely be significantly increased. If Lowry stays, he may have to get used to being content at the bottom of the depth chart.