Toronto Raptors: The Case for Antoine Wright

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IOctober 3, 2009

DALLAS - MAY 11:  Forward Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets gets his elbow locked with Antoine Wright #21 of the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 11, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Antoine Wright was acquired in the complex sign and trade deal that brought Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto on July 9, 2009. Touted as a defensive specialist, he seemed to be the type of player that the Raptors needed to add to their roster.

At six foot, six-and-a-quarter, and 215 lbs, Antoine’s measurements put him in between the typical shooting guard and small forward. But his standing reach of eight foot, eight-and-a-half suggests he can play taller than his height. This is something that Raptor coaches must have noticed as there appears to be a gaping hole at the backup small forward spot in the Raptors’ rotation.

Drafted 15th overall by the New Jersey Nets, just one spot ahead of Toronto’s Joey Graham, Antoine Wright came to the NBA from college considered a productive offensive player with a polished jump shot and as an aggressive defender, very good ball-thief, and good shot blocker.

Wright’s scoring and shooting percentages had improved over his three year college career at Texas A&M and in his junior season he averaged 17.8 points on 50.1% shooting, 6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks. Wright finished fourth in Big 12 scoring and was a consensus top 12 mock draft pick.

Things did not start out well for Wright in New Jersey. Wright played in only 39 games for the Nets, averaging just 9.5 minutes per game. Worse though were his 35.8% shooting and 1.8 points per game.

Wright did work himself out of the Nets doghouse and by his 3rd season was averaging 7.3 points on 40% shooting in 25.8 minutes per game. He was also developing a bit of a reputation for being able to guard wing players as his steals increased to 0.6 spg and his blocks to 0.4 bpg. Unfortunately, Wright was also proving to be turnover prone, with an ugly 0.6 assist to turnover ratio and he was showing a propensity for stepping out-of-bounds at inopportune moments.

A 2008 mid-season trade that send Jason Kidd to Dallas found Antoine Wright tagging along. Once in Dallas, Wright didn’t play much until next season. In the 2008-09 season, Dallas found themselves in desperate need of a wing player and Antoine Wright played in 65 regular season games averaging 23.9 minutes and starting 53 times.

Last season, Wright did average 7.3 points on 41.5% shooting, 0.7 steals, and 0.4 blocks. But he managed an even uglier 0.46 assist to turnover ratio.

Being in the East, the Raptors do not have the opportunity to see players from the Western Conference very often. At least the Dallas coaching staff was reported as saying that Toronto would be very happy with Antoine Wright. And when pressed in their 2009 playoff run, it was Wright who started in five of Dallas’ 10 games.

And it was Antoine Wright who was guarding Carmelo Anthony in game three against Denver with seconds left in the game when the “refs just wanting this thing over” didn’t call the call the foul and Carmelo hit the winning shot. The Dallas coaching staff showed a lot of faith in Wright’s defense at that moment.

Surprisingly with the playoff pressure on, Antoine Wright keep his turnovers under control for those 10 games when it mattered most. Maybe it’s just a question of concentration?

Wright should be the projected backup small forward in Toronto this season. The alternatives in the current line-up are somewhat limited. And while it was encouraging to see the faith the Dallas coaching staff placed in Wright, when it mattered most last year, there still appears to be room for concern.

Dallas used Wright in limited minutes last season, even when he started. The Raptors best case scenario is likely to do the same. Until Wright can demonstrate that he has improved both his shooting stroke and his turnovers, it will be a challenge for coaches to keep him on the floor for extended periods.

Antoine Wright at only 25 years old still has the ability to further develop his game. At the Raptors training camp, Coach Triano singled out Wright to praise his high basketball I.Q. Apparently, Wright showed up as good or better than advertised.

Very soon, we will get to see for ourselves.

Where does Antoine Wright fit best in the Raptors' rotation?

Check out the Raptors likely 10 rotation players to start the year and their impact on the team!

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