By the time the February trade deadline rolled around, the Mavericks quickly realized what kind of backcourt partner was needed to pair with superstar Luka Doncic.
Known as the Wonder Boy, Doncic quelled all debates about his ability to score and create at the NBA level, but he clearly needed help. Previous Maverick guards simply didn’t possess the inherent feel for the game needed to play alongside Doncic, setting the Mavericks on the quest to find his ball handling running mate this summer.
If you ask the Mavericks’ brain trust, they’d tell you Delon Wright was their target all along, and they acquired him in a sign-and-trade this offseason, slotting him next to Doncic as the Mavericks’ backcourt of the future.
Last night against the Pelicans, Wright was exactly who the Mavericks hoped he’d be, scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing three assists and snatching five steals in, which doesn’t count the numerous deflections he caused by being active in the passing lanes.
It was a quiet preseason and opener for the 6’5’’ guard, but he was undoubtedly the most important Maverick aside from Doncic against New Orleans, and looked much more comfortable playing 32 minutes off the bench after starting Wednesday night.
When pressed by the broadcast crew about the difference between starting and coming off the bench, Wright touched on the benefit of having lead guard duties.
“When I’ve been with the first unit, I’ve been playing shooting guard,” Wright told Derek Harper post game. “Then when I was able to come in with the second unit, I got the ball in my hands, was able to get comfortable, able to get up and down the floor, and I got going early.”
While Wright looked fantastic defensively, he made impactful contributions on the offensive end. The former Raptor and Grizzly went 8-of-12 from the field and connected on all four of his free throws. He consistently put pressure on the defense, methodically knifing through the lane and finishing in traffic. He was controlled and unnerved by the Pelicans’ corral of lengthy defenders.
But on the other end, Wright flexed his defensive chops and wreaked havoc for all 32 minutes he was on the court. He wasn’t locked onto any one player against the Pelicans, but it’s worth noting that the Pelicans’ starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick combined for 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting, surely prompting Rick Carlisle to heap high praise on Wright’s infectious defensive performance.
“We haven’t seen defense like that in Dallas since Jason Kidd,” Carlisle told the media post game.
Wright caused headaches for Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans all night and made one of the most important plays of the night with 20 seconds left and the Mavericks up by four. After Josh Hart rebounded a Dorian Finney-Smith missed a three-point attempt, Wright snuck around from the weak side and swiped the ball out of his grasp. New Orleans was forced to foul and Dallas was able to put the game away.
While Doncic is on the path to stardom, he needs a backcourt partner capable of checking the opposition’s top perimeter threat while taking some of the playmaking load off the 20-year-old’s shoulders. That’s exactly what Wright did, and he quelled many Mavericks’ fans feeling of regret of missing out on the likes of Patrick Beverley and Danny Green.
Every night won’t be like Friday night, but Wright is already showing why the Mavericks prioritized him in a offseason ripe with player movement.