Pistons coach Dwane Casey gives green light for assertive Delon Wright to go on offensive
Delon Wright isn’t supposed to be doing this for the Pistons.
Not in this role. Not with this much playing time. Not in the starting lineup.
Wright is supposed to be coming off the bench, helping the second group as a veteran guard who takes some of the pressure off Derrick Rose when needed. Instead, Wright has started all but five games this season and has been playing primarily at point guard.
In a starting lineup that featured Blake Griffin, rookie Killian Hayes and Jerami Grant to open the season, it’s easy to miss Wright. During his five previous seasons, Wright had been playing in the periphery, including in his previous stint with Pistons coach Dwane Casey when they were paired with the Toronto Raptors.
In Wright’s first three seasons with the Raptors, he made an impression on Casey, and that played a part in Casey advocating to get Wright in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason.
“When I had Delon in Toronto, he was kind of laid-back personality-wise and unassuming, but there's a toughness there,” Casey said this week. “When we were in Toronto, he showed flashes with (Fred) VanVleet and with Kyle (Lowry) and we'd play all three of them together sometimes and he would assert himself sometimes, but he would lay back.
“I don't know what button to push and I guess it's my fault that I don't push that button enough.”
In the past week, someone found out which button to push.
Wright has been on his best streak of the season, with a career-high 28 points against the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers, along with seven rebounds and nine assists. He hit a season-high four 3-pointers in that game and was efficient, going 8-of-12 from the field.
It was a different version of Wright, one that the Pistons needed to get one of their best wins of the season.
“It's my nature to pass first but everybody's been telling me my whole career to go look to score first and then find them if somebody's open,” Wright said. “I've been looking at a lot of film of these games and other players I feel are aggressive. I'm trying to keep that going and stay as aggressive as I can.”
The wins have been hard to come by this season, as the Pistons are looking to give more time to the young players. That was the expectation. Hayes was going to learn on the job and Wright and Derrick Rose would help guide the rookie. Wright opened the season as the starting shooting guard, but after Hayes sustained a hip injury in the seventh game, Wright shifted to become the starting point guard.
It hasn’t been a load of wins, but opening the season at 4-14 wasn’t the plan either.
“It's nice to sprinkle them in, but we want to make (winning) a normal thing. We don't want to celebrate a win; we want to continue to get wins and build on it,” Wright said. “We have some vets who have been on good teams and we know what it takes to win. We just want to do a good job for these guys and make this a normal thing for them.”
For Wright, 28, it’s a different role than he had planned, but working with Casey again makes it an easy transition. More playing time gives Wright a chance to expand his game and to show what kind of multi-faceted player he can be.
Through a quarter of the season, Wright is finding his way and his role is clear, at least until Hayes returns and can take some of the reins at point guard.
“He looks a lot more comfortable. This is a brand-new team and we're still getting used to each other,” leading scorer Jerami Grant said. “It's huge for us when he plays like this. I look forward to him continuing to be aggressive.”
Casey wants to see more out of Wright as well, though it’s not the primary objective for this season. If it’s not Hayes, it’s just as well that Wright can guide the offense in his absence. The increased role and starter’s minutes make it clear that Wright has plenty of leeway to showcase his game.
“I get on him hard on coach him hard. But I think too with him, it’s the opportunity, the minutes that he has to go in there and just know that it's on him,” Casey said. “I think he responds to that a little bit more than anything else. (On Monday) he almost had a triple-double and was as assertive and as aggressive as I've seen him.
“I think it's a product of just knowing he's going to be out there in long minutes and it's his game to control and he did an excellent job of that. He has all the green lights in the world to do that, at any time he wants to.”