After the Toronto Raptors’ bench scored just five of the team’s 123 points in a big win Saturday night, it seemed like their reserves had hit a low point. The starters had carried the team and they’d probably suffer the consequences the next night against Indiana – the second night of a back-to-back. But as Kyle Lowry returned to the starting lineup, the bench was terrific on Sunday night, scoring 52 points to help the team beat Indiana and reclaim the best record in the NBA.
Norman Powell was the man to watch, scoring a career-high 23 points and continuing his solid play since returning from injury. However, he wasn’t the only reserve guard who played well for Toronto. Look at how Delon Wright sliced through the defense on this play in the fourth quarter:
Wright finished with 10 points, six assists, and two steals in 25 minutes, making a pair of 3-pointers as well. The Raptors outscored the Pacers by 12 with him on the floor, in a game where Toronto’s bench was almost as effective as its starting lineup, which is one of the league’s best (even without Kawhi Leonard).
So, with the Raptors’ regular season more than halfway through, it’s about time we play a little game I like to call, “Haaaaaave you met Delon?”
It starts like this:
And let’s throw in a little bit of this:
Wright is “just” a bench player who averages 6.4 points and 2.1 assists per game. He hasn’t been quite the player he was last year, when he contributed to one of the league’s best bench lineups. But while Toronto’s bench play has been inconsistent this year – and Wright is no exception – he’s still a rotation player and can be an X-factor in any given matchup. And when Wright is on his game, he can be incredible to watch.
Wright navigates pick-and-rolls and attacks defenders one-on-one with a wide arsenal of moves. He’s busted out a killer double crossover several times this season:
He’s also got a wicked in-and-out dribble to shake off defenders:
Wright has even tried out a spin move, though it’s not quite as sharp as Pascal Siakam’s signature move, of course.
Wright clearly has a talent for fancy finishes, but he often tries to do too much. He goes to the reverse when he could go straight up on the same side. He goes up-and-under when he likely should’ve taken contact from the defense. He uses a finger roll despite being tall and athletic enough to dunk it. Even in transition, Raptors fans are all too familiar with Wright missing easy opportunities like this:
Wright is shooting just 49.5 percent on layups this season, barely better than VanVleet on those shots. That shouldn’t be the case considering Wright is six feet five inches with a wingspan even longer than that, while VanVleet is under six feet tall. After seeing Wright’s dazzling moves, it’s shocking to realize that he’s a below average finisher at the rim.
The solution seems pretty straightforward. While his dribble moves are great, Wright needs to cut down on the finesse a little when it comes to finishing. He should continue using his moves to get to the rim, but instead finish stronger and above the rim more often than not. That would help Wright could become a more reliable secondary playmaker. When he doesn’t get a step on his defender, or he meets a good rim protector at the rim, that’s when Wright should unleash his more creative finishes like these:
With his restricted free agency coming up in July, Wright will have to answer a lot of questions during the second half of the season. He seems to have the upside of a starting point guard, but he’s older than you think; Wright will turn 27 in April. Even so, he can play both guard positions and is tall enough to slide to small forward sometimes to provide extra playmaking. Wright seems fit for a sixth man role somewhere else if Toronto won’t spend enough to re-sign him. The Raptors will surely prioritize retaining Leonard and Danny Green this off-season.
For now, Wright is competing for minutes with two better point guards – Lowry and Fred VanVleet – and one of the deepest wing rotations in the league. If he can clean up his finishing, it could open back up his three-point shooting, which has fallen from 36.6 percent last season to 34.2 percent this year. The Raptors might need it. Their bench, while deep, features too many players who could be hard to trust come playoff time – Wright being one of them.
Wright has already proven to be one of the league’s most exciting reserves to watch. If he puts it all together, he can be more than just exciting. He can be valuable in the postseason, which will increase the value of the contract he’ll sign next summer.
All stats according to NBA.com. Stats are up to date before games played on Jan. 7.