Ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, Peachtree Hoops is previewing each member of the Atlanta Hawks’ roster with a look at what they might provide to the team. Today, we glance at newly acquired veteran guard Delon Wright.
Throughout Trae Young’s career with the Atlanta Hawks, there has been at least one constant: the Hawks have typically not been very good when they take him off the floor and let someone else run the show. The acquisition of Delon Wright is another attempt to remedy that after the one-year Kris Dunn experiment never got off the ground due to injury. While Lou Williams was better for the Hawks than Rajon Rondo was last season following the trade, and Kevin Huerter was able to offer some creation and scoring punch off the bench, Atlanta has still lacked a consistent, two-way backup point guard option throughout Young’s career.
Last season, the Hawks were forced to stagger Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic during the second half of the season, and it’s something that worked out fairly well. Bogdanovic was part of three of the four most frequent lineups Atlanta deployed with Young off the floor last season despite only playing 44 of the team’s 72 games.
Due to all of the injuries last season, both Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan used a ton of different lineups in an effort to improve on the -13.2 net rating Atlanta posted when Young was on the bench in 2019-20. The Hawks did manage to do that, posting a -4.6 net figure across 2439 possessions without their star for the 2020-21 season, and the number was even better than that post Mar. 1 (after Bogdanovic returned).
The addition of Wright will hopefully allow the Hawks to keep their head above water without Young the way they did in the second half of last season without having to overwork the likes of Huerter and Bogdanovic over the course of a grueling 82 game schedule. Obviously Atlanta will still be a better team with Young (+6.1 per 100 when Young was on the floor last season) and other starters on the court, but Wright brings a lot to the table and should be a capable second unit producer.
Wright split last season between Detroit and Sacramento, and was as steady as ever in both stops. He made 39 starts (63 games played), played nearly 28 minutes per game and maintained a low turnover rate, something he’s made a habit of throughout his career. Wright had 278 assists compared to just 83 turnovers in 2020-21. He shot 80.2% from the free throw line and 37.2% from three, while the volume wasn’t great at just 4.8 three-point attempts per 100 possessions.
Defensively, he’s a quality option on the perimeter and a luxury for a team like the Hawks to have coming off the bench. At 6’5, he’s more than capable of sliding to the shooting guard spot to play alongside Young if needed. He’s one of the more perfect options Atlanta could have found to share backup point minutes with Lou Williams, a 17-year veteran who will turn 35 next month. Williams is far more aggressive offensively than Wright and far less capable defensively. Second-unit lineups that feature four of Wright, Williams, Huerter, Cam Reddish and Danilo Gallinari with either Gorgui Dieng or Onyeka Okongwu (when he returns) at center should represent some of the best depth in the NBA.
Wright started 31 of his 36 games with the Pistons before being traded last season. With Detroit, the veteran posted a +3.3 on/off rating. While on/off stats are not everything, posting a positive rating across a sample that size with the Pistons is nothing to sneeze at. He’s a quality distributor and if you put even somewhat quality talent around him, the offense seems to run somewhat smoothly and at the very least feature low turnover rates when he’s featured as the lead ball-handler. He ranked in the 75th percentile per CTG in ‘Assists to Usage ratio’ which measures assist rate compared to usage rate.
The idea of Wright playing with the quality of players the Hawks already have on their second unit is frankly rather exciting. He’s been a quality starting point guard with Detroit, solid while not spectacular. Putting him in a lower usage role against opposing teams’ second units feels like a recipe for a more efficient version of Wright in a per minute basis, especially when considering the quality of shooting the Hawks have on their second unit in Huerter and Gallinari.