Few prospects that I've scouted over the past 5 years have the pure combination of power and athleticism than Chris Wright does. He's a player you can't help but keep your eyes on while knowing that a freakish, highlight-filled explosion can happen at any minute. And when you look at his NBADL performance (18.3 ppg/ 9.3 rebs), finishing third team All-Development League last year, you'd have to think that there's a spot for him in the NBA. For me, in looking at the Toronto Raptors' roster at the small and big forward positions, Wright could find his long awaited opportunity.
Wright, at times, is your classic tweener in a league where you need to be able to defend multiple positions and score from them as well. Defensively, he's NBA ready and if you take a closer look at his progressing offensive skills (particularly from the perimeter), I think he's ready to stick. Wright has proven the ability to defend at the NBA level, but just hasn't been able to find the right opportunity to get regular NBA minutes. Via SFgate.com.
"That's what Wright did last season, when the little-known high-flyer out of Dayton impressed the Warriors with his defensive tenacity in practice and eagerness to fast-track his adjustment from a collegiate post to a professional perimeter player after practice.
Whichever position he was guarding, Wright had the same goal: "frustrate them until they don't even want the ball anymore." After practice, he would hunt down one of the assistant coaches and ask about a specific perimeter skill that he wanted to improve."
If you know what Masai Ujiri is looking for, Wright may just be a diamond in the rough. The new Raptors executive had an active off season and when you look at the Raptors' roster minus Andrea Bargnani, you see a one that is built to play small and run a spread offense highly en vogue in today's NBA. But you also have to defend, something, again, Wright has proven he can do.
According to Basketball Reference, the Raptors were 24th in pace and 22nd in defensive rating. Expect those numbers to improve. I can see Wright fitting several needs. Granted, they've added Austin Daye, Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough, NBA veterans who will probably get minutes at Wright's positions, but all lack the combined power and explosion needed to be effective for a ton of minutes.
Wright, at 24, is peaking physically. If he can prove he can stretch defenses from the perimeter in preseason, he'll allow Kyle Lowery and Demar DeRozen to do what they do best, and that's get to the basket from the perimeter. Last season with the Maine Red Claws, Wright logged 35 minutes per game in 39 games and showed his ability to be proficient from the field and behind the arc, a dimension he hadn't proved before. Granted, the volume wasn't there in terms of 3-point attempts (15-41 for .366%), but you can see a progression in his skill set that may answer questions scouts have had on him over the past few years.
Wright is a physical specimen at 6'8 225, and if you remember his pre-draft reports, you'll recall a guy who had NBA executives drooling despite aforementioned limitations on offense. I was told via a source that Wright received bad advice in pulling out from the Portsmouth Invitational, where he could have dominated and improved his stock. Via Draftexpress in 2011:
"Ultimately, Chris Wright is still very much a raw prospect, lacking much in terms of a perimeter skill set. His elite size and athleticism remain intriguing, however, and if he can continue to show energy and effort on both ends of the floor, his potential may land him a spot in the second round of the draft if he impresses a team enough in workouts...Unfortunately, Wright often defers to his jump shot, which is a shame considering he lacks solid shooting touch. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Wright converted just 30 of 100 jump shot attempts and on film, it is easy to see why. His mechanics are cramped including an inconsistent release point that lacks follow through. Though his below average wingspan may factor into his shooting woes, there are plenty of players with similar physical profiles who have developed as shooters. Wright must work hard during the pre-draft process to correct his mechanics and become a reliable spot-up shooter, especially if he fully transitions to the perimeter at the next level."
Ujiri drafted Kenneth Faried, an undersized tweener with apparent limited range as well. Faried and Wright are very similar in size (Wright is 6'8/225 Faried is 6'8/228) and both have a knack for the basketball. They also have a fire that burns so strong that you can't help but leave them on the floor. My developmental checklist for a SF/PF starts with strength to guard both positions and log minutes. Second is the ability to stretch the defense and get easy baskets. Third is attitude and overall desire and understanding of what it takes to keep your body right.
I see a lot of checks in Wright's ledger and believe if Wright is focused on earning his job in the NBA, Toronto absolutely can be his opportunity. I believe before the end of the year, he'll find himself getting regular rotation minutes for the Raptors. He's right there where he needs to be in his professional development.
Tommy Dee is the Director of Business Development for CHARGED.fm and was founder/executive editor of TheKnicksBlog.com from 2008-2013. He has contributed his scouting notes to Hoopsworld.com and SheridanHoops.com and is a regional scout for Blake and Associates.