The Dallas Mavericks were widely praised last summer when they signed guard Delon Wright to a three year deal. While they remained fairly quiet on the free agency front (outside of officially signing Kristaps Porzingis), acquiring a lengthy defensive guard like Wright is just the sort of savvy move where the Mavericks are best.
Perhaps expectations got ahead of us. For many Wright was viewed as a starter, joining a team with few obvious starters trying to sniff the playoffs. That hasn’t played out to this point, and may have been unfair to what Wright brings to the table.
Put simply, there are few players on the team that does what Delon Wright can do.
Where were they before the break?
Playing in 65 games, with five starts, Wright is averaging seven points, four rebounds. over three assists and a steal in just under 22 minutes per game. That is to say: Delon Wright is doing a little bit of everything.
Though he seems hesitant to shoot Wright has connected on nearly 39-percent of his 117 three point attempts this season. As rotations worked themselves out this season, Wright was often the fifth offensive option on the floor. It would be nice to see more decisiveness in his offensive game — but if your fifth option on the floor can connect at 39-percent from deep, the team is in a good place.
Ultimately scoring isn’t why Wright continues to earn minutes. His willingness to make effort plays on both ends has kept him on the floor, and contributed to winning basketball. In a recent episode of the Mavs Daily Podcast Bobby Karalla did a deep dive on Wright, pointing to Wright’s effectiveness and highlighting that the Mavericks are 12-5 in games where Wright has two or more steals.
2.6 percent. Delon Wright’s steal percentage this season not only leads the team, it’s good for ninth in the entire league. Wright is slight in frame, but does a decent job using his length to his advantage along the perimeter. He may be criticized for slow feet in isolation or not being a “shut down defender” as advertised, he has a knack for disrupting opponents and forcing key turnovers.
His hustle translates on the other end too, where Wright’s timing on the glass has boosted the Mavericks’ sudden rebounding prowess. Nearly every game Wright has found a way to put back a Maverick miss, or tap out to a teammate to extend the possession. Wright is the only non-Luka guard that averages an offensive rebound every game.
Outlook for Orlando
With injury trouble plaguing the Mavericks, Rick Carlisle will not have Jalen Brunson or Courtney Lee to turn to off the bench. And while perpetual security blanket JJ Barea, and new addition Trey Burke will be available as offensive spark plugs, Delon Wright will be the only player to provide defense and support plays along the perimeter.
If tasked with a larger role, Carlisle will have to assess how Wright plays alongside Doncic and what the Mavericks can afford. According to NBA.com, in the 51 minutes together Wright and Doncic have a Net Rating of +4.5. Unsurprisingly, the duo trades out some of the offense Doncic creates with other guards for some defense (though Doncic playing with Tim Hardaway Jr. has a better Defensive Rating in a much larger sample of minutes).
Should Wright see his minutes expand it’s worth glancing at his Per-36 minute averages: 12 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals. It’s hard to imagine that sort of uptick in production from Wright on a consistent basis. But the truth is, the Mavericks will need some surprise performances from role players if they want to do damage in the playoffs. And Delon Wright has the potential of an X-factor in a game that flips a series.