Delon Wright was good last year—the kind of good that put him on NBA radars despite spending the previous two years in junior college. Wright earned scouts' attention. And this year, I'm expecting him to keep it and ultimately convert it into first-round dollars.
The younger brother of 10-year NBA veteran Dorell, Delon seemingly came out of nowhere as an impact junior at Utah. He got the occasional national shoutout last season. And chances are if you're a hardcore draft fan or regular Pac-12 viewer, you're pretty familiar with Wright's game. But for the most part, he still flies a bit below the radar.
I'd be willing to bet he doesn't last down there for long—with Utah expected to compete for a postseason bid, the spotlight and microphones should naturally start shifting Wright's way.
Regardless, the potential he flashed in his first year on the job in Division I basketball is worthy of examination. Wright put up monster numbers, both in terms of production and efficiency, while showcasing some special physical tools for a point guard.
At 6'5", he has standout size that helps drive the mismatch he presents at the point guard position on both ends of the floor. And this kid is smooth and elastic. He reminds me of Gumby out there, with the ability to twist and contort his body to fit through tight seams and windows.
Wright performs well on the eye test, from an athletic and measurement standpoint. His type of height and elusiveness allows a ball-handler of his skill to play to his upside.
Wright averaged 5.3 assists a game last season while being used on just 21.4 percent of his possessions (in comparison, Elfrid Payton and Shabazz Napier, who each averaged 5.9 and 4.9 assists, respectively, had usage rates last year of over 27 percent). He sets up teammates from multiple spots and angles on the floor, whether he's running a pick-and-roll, attacking from the wing or pushing the break.
Wright just has some tantalizing change-of-direction shiftiness and slick playmaking instincts. He's not the quickest or most explosive, but he finds ways to get to his spots on the floor, particularly with that nasty hesitation dribble.
He finished his junior year with a decent 1.96 pure point rating (weighs assists and turnovers relative to each other in a per-minute form), which ranks fifth among DraftExpress' top 100 returning point guards. Wright isn't your traditional facilitator, as he even played off the ball occasionally at Utah, but his feel for the game as a passing playmaker has looked pretty on point.
He generated some nice buzz for himself this summer at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy, where many of the top players in the country work out through invitation only.
As a scorer, Wright is as crafty as they come. He averaged 15.5 points a game, and just about all of them came within 12-15 feet from the hoop.
You can't even appreciate how good he was inside the arc without mentioning his glaring weakness first. Wright poses as a non-threat from long range. He hit only 12 three-pointers last year and shot just 22.2 percent. With defenses sagging back, giving up the jumper and looking to take away the drive, Wright still managed to shoot a whopping 63.3 on two-point field goals.
Wright spoke with Raphielle Johnson of CollegeBasketballTalk regarding his shooting stroke:
That’s the main thing I need to work on. I’ve been shooting a lot of shots in the gym, and I’m trying to work on my form, release and confidence [in taking those shots]. A lot of teams packed the lane against me because they knew I like to drive to the basket. They gave me the outside shot and I wasn’t comfortable with it. So I feel that if I can knock those shots down, it will open up my game and open up the game for the entire team.
Usually you only see forwards or big men near the top of their conference in field-goal percentage, which Wright was at 56.1 percent—not point guards. Granted, a lot of Wright's offense comes in transition, which isn't by mistake, but his efficiency is still pretty ridiculous.
In the half court, he's a magician in the lane—one of those playmakers capable of improvising on the fly and inventing new ways to create and finish.
Hoop-Math had him down for shooting a remarkable 71.7 percent at the rim last season. Scoop shots, flips, reverses, floaters, lay-ups through contact, slams above the rim—Wright has a deep bag of tricks and sharp sense for when to use each.
His body control is terrific, from his Eurosteps to his acrobatic finishes on the move.
But only three quarters of Wright's sales pitch to the pros will center around his offensive game. His final point, the one that could ultimately hook a general manager selecting early in next year's draft, focuses on the defensive impact he's made and tools he has for the future.
Wright ranked No. 4 in the country last season in defensive win shares, per sports-reference.com. He racked up 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks a game.
With quick hands, long arms and the instincts to anticipate and react, Wright can be awfully disruptive.
And he also rebounds extremely well for his position, pulling in 6.8 (5.1 defensive) a game, thanks to a strong nose for the ball and a willingness to go after it.
From his offensive prowess to his presence on the boards and defensive potential, Wright brings a fairly complete package to the table—except for that jumper, which is going to be a talking point among scouts whenever he suits up.
The fact that he'll be 23 years old by the 2015 draft doesn't help. We've seen big point guards that can't shoot get taken in the lottery before, like Michael Carter-Williams and Elfrid Payton, but they entered the draft at much younger ages (20). Their current NBA coaches and general managers will likely be disappointed if their shooting doesn't improve by the time they're 23.
Already 22, time isn't exactly on Wright's side.
But there's reason to believe—he has looked capable in the mid-range, and he did sink 79.3 percent of his 193 free-throw attempts.
John Pudner, a political adviser and creator of ValueAddBasketball.com who's consulted NBA general managers in the past, developed a statistic that measures each college players' overall value. Last year, his formula pegged Shabazz Napier as the highest-rated player. And now Pudner has Wright projected to follow in his footsteps as the most valuable in the country.
Look for Wright to bring Utah to the national stage in 2015, and in turn, break through as a rising NBA prospect in draft conversations.