Raptors rookie Wright has opportunity to shine in stretch run

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey talks about the selection of Utah point guard Delon Wright at number 20.

The Raptors continue to evaluate their roster as we near closer to the stretch run into the 2016 playoffs. On Tuesday the team addressed it’s power forward situation, signing veteran Jason Thompson and waiving 22 year-old Anthony Bennett in the process.

Bennett, the 2013 1st overall pick, doesn’t lack for talent, but on a team with a realistic shot at first place in the conference and playoff expectations subsequently rising, GM Masai Ujiri admitted there just wasn’t a real opportunity— or, frankly, a need— to give the Brampton, ON native the tutelage and playing time he’ll need in order to work his way into a serviceable pro.

The same can’t be said for Delon Wright, the Raptors first round pick (20th overall) this past summer.

At 6’5” and with a full four years of collegiate experience behind him, the 23-year old Wright may be one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on over the next month as the team could try to make a bigger effort to work him into the rotation.

“I like Delon Wright,” Raptors assistant coach Rex Kalamian said during an appearance on SN590 the FAN this morning. “He’s another young player that needs to be on the floor.”

On Sunday in Detroit he got that opportunity, playing 31 minutes after starter Kyle Lowry was given the night off. Wright responded with his best effort in a Raptors jersey thus far, posting 13 points (2-4 from deep, 5-6 from the line), four assists, and a steal.

Prior to that game, Wright had only played 45 total NBA minutes this season, mainly the result of sitting third on the depth chart behind Lowry and Cory Joseph (and partially, I’m sure, because of head coach Dwane Casey’s reluctance to play rookies at length).

But unlike Bennett, in the limited game action and during a far more extended run during Raptors practices and scrimmages, Wright has been able to consistently demonstrate to the club precisely what he brings to the table. Which is to say, a versatile two-way game built off sound fundamentals and an ability to maneuver through traffic effortlessly. Against Detroit, while he looked every bit a rookie feeling his way in the league, he still managed to impress his coaches.

“There was some pick and roll coverage [on Sunday] that he didn’t get quite correct,” Kalamian said, “but you know what? He played really hard. His passing is infectious and he really sees the next play very well. He’s a true point guard, even at his size. You might look at him and think he’s more of a shooter, or a scorer [at the position] but he really likes delivering the ball.”

He’s shown that to be true in his work in the D-League with the Raptors 905 this season where Wright has looked flat-out unstoppable for long stretches, toying with defences and finding teammates at. In 12 D-League games, Wright is averaging 18 points (on 52% shooting) to go along with nearly seven assists and two steals per game.

Don’t be surprised to see Wright find himself back with the Raptors 905 this season as the team recognizes the importance of meaningful playing time (fellow rookie Norm Powell was reassigned there today). But with the playoffs already a focus for the big club you can expect the team to look for more opportunities to rest Lowry down the stretch (at 37 minutes per game, no other point guard in the NBA averages more court time than the Raptors all-star) which should open the door for Wright to continue to work his way deeper into the Raptors plans, present and future. Even if he can’t hide his inexperience.

“He works extremely hard and is a young developing player so we live with some of the things he does that are crazy, and also pat him on the back after some of the things he does well,” says Kalamian. “He’s going to be a good player as time goes on for us.”

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