TORONTO — In Delon Wright, Dwane Casey is getting a mature player who grew up around the NBA, and fits in well with the coach’s defensive mindset.
He also fills a sudden void at point guard.
The Raptors selected the Utah product with the No. 20 pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, the pick announced just minutes after news broke that Toronto had traded backup guard Greivis Vasquez.
"He’s one of the top defensive point guards in the draft," Casey said. "He defends, he can run the pick and roll very well. Great kid, good character, good team guy, and an excellent ball passer in the pick-and-roll game."
The six-foot-five Wright is the younger brother — by six years — of Portland Trail Blazers’ small forward Dorrell.
"He had a really big influence on me," Delon said on a conference call, ducking out briefly from a draft party of 200 people organized by his brother.
"Obviously being his little brother and seeing him play in the NBA for 11 years really motivated me, and I see how hard work pays off."
Casey said the exposure Wright has had to the league will mean a much smoother adjustment to basketball’s big stage.
"He wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the NBA," Casey said. "He’s grown up around the NBA, he’s been to numerous NBA games, worked out with NBA players, so he’s not going to come in shellshocked to go against guys in practice."
The 23-year-old from Los Angeles was a bit of a late-bloomer, playing at the City College of San Francisco for two years before transferring to Utah. He’s grown into a versatile player, ranking in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in scoring, assists and steals.
He was a second-team all-American in his senior season, and made the all-Pac-12 conference team in both his junior and senior years.
Moments after his name was announced, Wright received a call from Raptors captain and fellow L.A. native DeMar DeRozan.
"He was telling me I don’t have anything to worry about, he’s going to take care of me, make sure I’m doing my best, and we’re just going to get after it," Wright said.
Casey is excited about what the guard can bring on the defensive end, comparing him Nate McMillan, who Casey coached in Seattle. He’s a long point guard who can guard multiple positions.
"It’s huge," Casey said. "(Defence) was our issue… and where we’re going to start training camp is guys guarding the ball, and this young man does an excellent job of that."
Wright also played baseball and football growing up, and said the hand-eye co-ordination developed in baseball has paid dividends on the hardcourt.
He’ll join a team that will be minus Vasquez, who, according to numerous reports, was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 46 pick and a future first-round pick.
The Bucks drafted Norman Powell, a six-foot-four shooting guard from UCLA, with the 46th pick.
Dealing Vasquez frees up a significant amount of cash for this summer’s free agency period.
The 28-year-old from Venezuela was set to make US$6.6 million next season.
Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 82 games this past season. He made 29 starts.
He shot 40.8 per cent from the field, and hit a career-best 37.9 per cent from three-point range.