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Why Delon Wright makes a ton of sense for the Sixers

The Sixers could use a versatile ball handler that won’t hurt them on the defensive end or affect their offseason plans. The Wizards’ Delon Wright isn’t a star, but he’d tick those boxes.

In-Season Tournament - Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

With a star duo in place and a slew of moveable assets, the Sixers are going to be mentioned in plenty of rumors before the NBA trade deadline.

They’ve been linked to the Bulls’ Zach LaVine — who seems very available — but it doesn’t appear the Sixers are all that interested. The Raptors’ OG Anunoby will be the jewel of just about every team’s eye, but we’ve seen how Toronto’s Masai Ujiri operates and recent reports indicate he’s more likely to keep the defensive maven.

So, with no true star options on the board that make sense, where do the Sixers turn?

When you’re looking at what they need, they could certainly use another ball handler when Maxey goes to the bench — or even share the floor with Maxey to give him some off-ball possessions. Daryl Morey has made it clear that he won’t simply target a ball handler. That player would need to provide two-way ability and be good enough to crack a deep rotation.

That’s why the Wizards’ Delon Wright makes a ton of sense as a trade target.

When Morey and James Harden were in a standoff (that feels like a million years ago, doesn’t it?) the Sixers’ main executive was steadfast in saying he wanted a star player — or the assets to land a star player — in return. Mission accomplished with the Sixers acquiring four players on expiring contracts (who have all contributed to varying degrees) and valuable draft capital.

But with the new CBA basically punishing teams building Big 3s and no obvious star player to acquire at the deadline, someone like Wright makes the team better now. He fixes obvious holes and allows Morey to maintain flexibility this offseason when a better-fitting star player could be available.

Wright is 31 and has played for seven different teams. He’s never been an All-Star or made an All-Defensive Team.

Still with me? Good. Wright being traded five times in eight-plus seasons and playing for so many bad teams belies his value.

First, we’ll start with his defense, which is likely the best and most underrated part of his game. He’s 6-foot-5 but possesses the speed and lateral quickness of a point guard. He’s impactful, averaging 2.1 steals per 36 minutes for his career. His 4.8 deflections per 36 minutes were second only to the Bulls’ Alex Caruso last season (minimum 50 games). During his time with the Wizards, Washington is nearly 4.5 points better defensively per 100 possessions with Wright on the floor. He often takes on the opponent’s lead ball handler and generally acquits himself well. If he isn’t considered a “game-changer” defensively, he’s pretty damn close.

Offensively, he can dribble, pass and (sometimes) shoot. Like Maxey, he takes excellent care of the basketball. For his career, he’s averaged less than a turnover per game. He’s a decent playmaker, averaging over three assists per game. He’s one of the craftier players in the league, able to change speeds and direction to manipulate defenders. He’s proven to be a good finisher, finishing in the 98th percentile among guards in that category last season, per Cleaning the Glass.

The shot is the trickier thing to figure out. He’s a career 35.2% shooter from deep on low volume. That doesn’t seem great, but it’s worth noting that his shooting seems to be better when he’s in better offensive ecosystems (duh). In his stints with the Mavericks (73 games), Kings (27) and Hawks (77), he shot 38.0% (124-of-326). During the 2021-22 season with Atlanta, Wright enjoyed his best shooting season. Per NBA.com, he shot 41.1% on wide-open threes, which accounted for 27.1% of the shots he took that year. With the Sixers, he’ll get no shortage of open looks.

As mentioned previously, a ball handler who can not only spell Maxey but also give him off-ball reps would be ideal. Going back to Wright’s time with the Hawks again, he shared the floor with All-Star Trae Young for 410 minutes that season. Lineups with that duo produced an 8.1 net rating, per PBP stats. Not too shabby. It was a similar deal playing with Luka Dončić in 2019-20. When Dončić and Wright shared the floor, their net rating was 5.4 in 590 minutes.

Analysis: Wright plays well off of good guards.

Defensively, you could assemble some wild lineups with deflection machines like Wright, De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington, Paul Reed and Kelly Oubre Jr.

When dissecting players that seem like good fits for the Sixers, how they’ll fare in the postseason is the most important thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to find a player with a proven playoff resume (yeah, that would be nice), but a player whose skillset fits the style of the postseason.

Wright doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience, but he’s maximized the little opportunities he’s gotten. He fared quite well against the Miami Heat while with the Hawks in 2022. In five games, he hit 38.5% from three on nearly three attempts a game while being extremely efficient overall (62.2% true shooting) and still taking care of the basketball (13.2 turnover percentage).

More importantly, his game seems well-suited for the postseason. He can create off the dribble without turning it over. He can hit an open shot. He can defend at the point of attack and create turnovers. Another random thing while actually watching him — he is poised. Wright never seems rushed or off-kilter on either end. He makes good decisions, sees the game well and never gets sped up.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is some familiarity with Wright and Nick Nurse. Wright was a part of the trade that sent Marc Gasol to the Raptors in Nurse’s first season as head coach, but Nurse was an assistant on Dwane Casey’s staff the previous five seasons. Wright was in Toronto for his first three years while Nurse was on the bench.

So, what would it cost to acquire him? That’s a tough question. Wright’s $8.1 million salary would be easy for the Sixers to match. He’ll also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, keeping the cap space plan in place. A late first-round pick wouldn’t be an outrageous ask if you’re the Wizards, but perhaps the Sixers can entice Washington with a second-rounder or two or perhaps include a young player like Jaden Springer or KJ Martin.

Last season, Morey referred to Jalen McDaniels as a “hidden gem” after the athletic wing came over from Charlotte. While that ... didn’t work out, Wright actually fits that mold — he’s a good player who’s played for some bad teams.

Maybe you weren’t that familiar with Delon Wright before reading this, but that anonymity could allow the Sixers to get a solid, easy-fitting player at great value.

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