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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 10/19

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Bradley Beal Leads the Changing of the Shooting Guard

By Moke Hamilton

It was one of the more frigid January nights in the nation’s capital, but inside of Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center ensued a battle that nary a paying customer believed they would witness.

It was 2013 and the 4-28 Washington Wizards were seen as nothing more than an undisciplined bunch being led by John Wall—another entitled pro athlete who was given too much, too soon.

Kevin Durant—the man whose homecoming this night was—was the opposite.

Durant was the quintessential stud. Hard working, dedicated to his craft and doing whatever was necessary to win. As a resident of the Western Conference, he was making his annual trip to the District of Columbia.

Unfortunately for him, a rookie shooting guard that few had ever heard of ruined it; some kid named Bradley Beal.

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2014-15 NBA Fantasy Focus: Sleepers

By Susan Bible

Forget pumpkins, fall festivals and football. This is the time of year to get your fantasy basketball strategy in order. Those who play the game have already made a mental list for draft day of their favorites in all positions. After the initial critical rounds have flown by, the field is open to round out your roster. Before automatically reaching for the obvious intermediate-type players, consider taking a chance with an unexpected pick. Basketball Insiders is here to help you analyze those sleeper picks that can potentially yield a surprise advantage while assembling your team for the 2014-15 NBA season.

As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

These are our sleeper picks to seriously contemplate this season:

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Dalembert Recalls Iverson Alley-Oops, Discusses New Role on Knicks

By Jessica Camerato

It has been four years since Samuel Dalembert played for the Phialdelphia 76ers. After nine seasons with the same organization, he has since suited up for the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and, currently, the New York Knicks. Even though he has donned numerous uniforms, he is still frequently associated with his first team.

“Another home again,” he said. “Everybody says (it seems like I was just with the 76ers) because I spent almost 10 years in Philly.”

The 76ers drafted Dalembert in 2001 and traded him to the Kings in the summer of 2010. During that time in Philadelphia, Dalembert developed a rapport with Allen Iverson on the court. The dunks became seamless – the crafty point guard to the anticipating big man.

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How Big Is Kevin Durant’s Injury?

By Steve Kyler

With the news yesterday that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant may miss up to eight weeks after a Jones fracture (a small crack at the base of the small toe) surfaced in his right foot, the question becomes does this really matter in the grand scheme of things for the Thunder?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Last season in the Western Conference the difference between first place and home court throughout the playoffs was just three games. The Spurs ended the 2013-14 season with 62 wins versus the Thunder’s 59 wins. The season before the gap between first was just two games in the West with the Thunder notching 60 wins compared to San Antonio’s 58 wins.

So how does Durant missing most of November impact the Thunder?

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Stan Van Gundy Settling In

By Yannis Koutroupis

Despite being given complete control of the Detroit Pistons this offseason, there wasn’t a reasonable method for Stan Van Gundy to make significant changes. There were plenty of opportunities, like trading Josh Smith to the Sacramento Kings or letting Greg Monroe leave via restricted free agency (where there was reportedly two teams willing to give him a max offer but didn’t due to a belief that the Pistons would match). However, none of those made enough sense for Van Gundy to pull the trigger, so instead he’s taking an approach similar to what Masai Ujiri did when he took over the Toronto Raptors last year.

Ujiri was expected to come in and clean house when he got the job in the summer of 2013, but wanted to see what they were capable of from an inside vantage point before making any roster-altering decisions. Early in the regular season, it was clear that Rudy Gay just didn’t fit with the personnel around him, and that is when Ujiri decided to act. He traded him to the Kings, which many viewed as the start of a massive rebuilding project, which typically occurs when a struggling team undergoes a change in management. Ujiri had an offer from the New York Knicks for starting point guard Kyle Lowry that he strongly considered, but during that process the team started to excel. Now, without any major moves outside of the Gay trade, the Raptors are viewed as one of the premier teams in the East, and Ujiri’s patience and faith is a major reason why.

 

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Six Things to Know: NBA Southeast Division

By Cody Taylor

When looking at the Southeast Division, there is one obvious loss in the division: LeBron James. With the Miami HEAT losing James, the division is practically there for the taking. Outside of the Orlando Magic, the rest of the four teams all have a legitimate chance at winning the division.

While the talk of the division won’t be dominated by James and the HEAT this season for the first time in a long time, there are other things to keep an eye on as the season shakes out. Here are six things to know about the Southeast Division:

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Six Things to Know: NBA Central Division

By John Zitzler

This week Basketball Insiders takes a look at six aspects of each division that may be flying under the radar. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, now we take a closer look at the Central Division.

The biggest news in the Central Division was of course made by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The return of LeBron James and the acquisition of Kevin Love makes them immediate title contenders. Other major headlines include three coaching changes: Jason Kidd in Milwaukee, David Blatt in Cleveland and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit. The Pacers also lost their star, Paul George, after he suffered a broken leg this summer while playing in a scrimmage for Team USA. While these events may have drawn the most attention, there are number of other items throughout that division that are worth mentioning. Here are six other things to key an eye on in the Central Division in 2014-15.

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Utah Jazz Could Exceed Expectations

By Alex Kennedy

Entering last season, the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats were projected to finish at the bottom of the standings. Both teams were extremely young and had first-time head coaches, so expectations were understandably low. However, Phoenix and Charlotte exceeded all projections, with the Suns winning 48 games and nearly earning the eighth seed in the competitive Western Conference and the Bobcats winning 43 games and making the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.

The NBA can be unpredictable and there are a few of these overachieving teams every season. This year, the Utah Jazz could emerge as one of those squads that seemingly comes out of nowhere to turn heads. With a young roster and first-time head coach in Quin Synder, they have a lot in common with last year’s surprise teams.

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NBA Rookie Extensions: Kawhi Leonard

By Nate Duncan

The 2014 rookie-extension class is one of the most interesting in several years due to the high number of quality players entering their fourth seasons. As most readers likely know by now, teams have until October 31 to reach extensions with first-rounders entering their fourth seasons or the players become restricted free agents next summer. This year, many of these players fall into the fascinating middle ground between total busts and obvious max outs, and their negotiations are further complicated by the unknown effect of the league’s recently-announced new TV deal.

Over the next couple weeks, we will take a look at some of the more interesting cases, beginning with a player whose negotiations are a lot more interesting than they would appear at first blush.

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Former Laker Tony Gaffney Shares Kobe Bryant Stories

By David Pick

For journeyman forward Tony Gaffney, who bounced around four different Euro countries, the NBA surely isn’t his claim to fame.

With passport stamps from Israel, Turkey, Germany and Spain, the undrafted 6’9 defensive specialist enters his sixth season as pro. In between his stints abroad, Gaffney also registered 38 games with the Utah Flash of the D-League.

However, it was Gaffney’s five-month tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers that carved out the most unique chapter of his basketball journal.

For those who have forgotten, Gaffney stood out for the Lakers during the 2009 NBA Summer League en route to earning a spot at vet-camp. He was the last player cut from Phil Jackson’s roster.

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The Shrinking Market For Rajon Rondo

By Lang Greene

Make no mistake about it, the Boston Celtics are in a state of rebuild. The memories of those epic playoff runs from 2008-2012 are quickly fading in the rearview mirror. Gone are stalwarts such as Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That Hall of Fame ensemble has been replaced with names such as Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner.

Times are changing in Boston, but one name from those glory years still remains in the fold: point guard Rajon Rondo.

Rondo is entering the final year of his current deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will undoubtedly field questions regarding Rondo’s long term future with the franchise, much like he has the past two campaigns. However, those questions will be intensified as we approach the trade deadline. Teams rarely let talent, let alone top talent, walk out the door with the risk of receiving zero assets in return. That’s not the NBA way and that’s the decision Ainge faces over the next few months.

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Six Things to Know: NBA Pacific Division

By Jesse Blancarte

This week, Basketball Insiders takes a look at six things to keep an eye on in each division. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, followed by the Central Division. Now, we take a look at the Pacific Division.

The Pacific Division again features two contenders in the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hired Steve Kerr to take over as head coach, while the Clippers got a new owner in Steve Ballmer as well as a few new role players. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are looking to build off of last season’s surprising success after signing point guard Isaiah Thomas and re-signing Eric Bledsoe to a five-year contract. The Sacramento Kings enter this season led by DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, both of whom won gold medals this summer with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. Also, the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but bring back a healthy Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, along with some other key additions and a new head coach in Byron Scott.

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A Look at Extensions, Options & Final Rosters

By Eric Pincus

The 2014-15 NBA regular season is less than two weeks away.  While most general managers are close to finalizing their 15-man rosters, teams still have a number of items to resolve before November.

Extensions

Teams have until Halloween to ink extensions with first-round picks in the final year of their rookie contract.

Thus far three extensions have been signed. The Phoenix Suns extended Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, while the Denver Nuggets extended Kenneth Faried.

The following players are eligible for a contract extension:

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Saric Coming to NBA Soon?

By Joel Brigham

With two top-10 picks in this past summer’s draft, it looked as though the Philadelphia 76ers would end up with enough young talent to start turning things around, but instead of drafting, say, Dante Exum and Doug McDermott, players who could have helped immediately, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie went with an injured Joel Embiid and Euro star Dario Saric, who signed a new two-year contract with Turkish club Anadolu Efes days before the 2014 NBA Draft, essentially preventing him from playing in the NBA the next couple of seasons.

That plan hasn’t changed, despite recent rumblings that Saric already is unhappy playing in Turkey.

Saric’s father, Pedrag Saric, recently told a Croatian newspaper that his son was unhappy with his minutes. Having just been made a lottery pick and having been one of Euroleague’s biggest rising stars the last few years, it would make sense that Saric probably isn’t thrilled about riding the pine.

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Fantasy: Top-150 Overall Rankings for 2014-15 NBA season

By Tommy Beer

It’s that time of year folks… With the commencement of the 2014-15 NBA less than two weeks away, the majority of fantasy basketball drafts will be held over the next 10 days. Thus, we are rolling out our most comprehensive and complete rankings to date.

Listed below are the official Top-150 overall ranks for the 2014-15 campaign.

Please note: These rankings are based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Beneath the rankings, I have listed a handful of players that just missed the cut. I have also included a few random stats and other interesting tidbits to help explain the thinking behind a handful of these selections…

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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Update: Eric Bledsoe Trade Talks

Michael Scotto updates the ongoing Eric Bledsoe trade saga.

Michael Scotto

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The sun has set on the 2017-18 season for Phoenix three games into the year.

The Suns fired head coach Earl Watson and promoted Jay Triano as the team’s interim head coach, as ESPN first reported. The Suns suffered an embarrassing 124-76 loss in the home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. The final straw came during a 130-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road to drop the team to 0-3.

Then things went from bad to worse rapidly after a tweet from guard Eric Bledsoe.

General manager Ryan McDonough spoke with Bledsoe. Bledsoe told McDonough he was at a hair salon with a girl and the tweet wasn’t related to the Suns. McDonough didn’t believe that to be true and said the 27-year-old guard “won’t be with us going forward.”

Bledsoe spoke with McDonough and owner Robert Sarver privately several weeks ago. During that conversation the desire for a change was expressed, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

Since then, Phoenix has discussed trades involving Bledsoe around the league, sources told Basketball Insiders. In addition, Tyson Chandler has continued to be shopped by the Suns during that time.

Trade talks have rapidly picked up since Bledsoe’s desire to be traded was made public.

The Suns and Denver Nuggets have discussed a trade of Eric Bledsoe for Emmanuel Mudiay and other pieces, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has emerged as part of the trade package with Mudiay, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Denver has shopped Faried for years. The 27-year-old forward is owed $12.9 million this season and $13.7 million next season. Mudiay is owed $3.4 million this season and $4.3 million next season. Mudiay will then become a restricted free agent if given a qualifying offer in the summer of 2019. For more information on Denver’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Suns also spoke to the New York Knicks and asked for No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in exchange for Bledsoe. The Knicks are not interested in that package, however.

Kyle O’Quinn is a candidate to be traded. Several teams have called the Knicks expressing interest in O’Quinn. New York wants to retain Hernangomez for the foreseeable future despite a lack of playing time early in the season. It’s also worth noting Hernangomez is a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis. Ntilikina is currently the point guard of the future in New York.

In addition, New York would need to add a salary filler to make the trade work financially. For more information on New York’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Milwaukee Bucks have also expressed interest in trading for Bledsoe, according to the New York Times. The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers also have interest in Bledsoe, according to Amico Hoops.

Bledsoe is owed $14.5 million this season and $15 million next season before entering unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018.

Bledsoe has averaged 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game with Phoenix. In addition, Bledsoe shot 45 percent from the field, 34 percent from downtown, and 81 percent from the foul line.

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NBA PM: Greek Freak Off to an MVP-Caliber Start

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ MVP and looks primed to be in the actual MVP race this season.

James Blancarte

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The NBA season is officially underway. Although each team has only played a few games so far, it has helped illuminate where many teams and players are in their development. For example, last night’s game in Oklahoma City gave a glimpse into how the Thunder will handle a late-game situation now that the team has three previous number one options. In the final minute, Russell Westbrook scored two of the Thunder’s last three baskets and assisted Carmelo Anthony on the final basket just before Andrew Wiggins hit a game-winning buzzer beater from well beyond the arc.

After three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s individual development has been one of the most exciting storylines to follow. A number of positive and far-reaching questions can be asked of Giannis. What is the ceiling for him? Can a player of his considerable talents continue to improve after winning Most Improved Player last season? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013 and is still only 22 years old.

When told in August that although he could win most valuable player, he could not also win most improved player as well, he responded with a simple, yet telling response.

“Why not?” Antetokounmpo responded.

While he continued to be lighthearted and moved on to the next topic, it’s fair to ask, “why not?” when it comes to Giannis. Through three regular season games, he is averaging 38.3 points, five assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. These averages will likely regress to more sustainable numbers as the season continues. For now, however, his averages are in elite territory. In addition, his ability to impact the game is already getting to the point where LeBron James may be the only other player who can similarly fill up the stat lines while physically terrorizing opponents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

When asked who the “biggest freak in the NBA” is, Giannis elaborated that it was James due to his ability to impose himself on the game.

“The things [James] does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong,” Giannis stated. “And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision.”

In Saturday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis willed his team to victory. It was Giannis demonstrating how big, strong and smart he was, putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to an impressive win.
With less than a minute left in a close game, Giannis closed in with a well-timed double team on Damian Lillard and came away with a clean steal. The steal got the Bucks the ball back and Giannis was fouled, which put him on the free throw line. Unfortunately, he came up short on both attempts and the Bucks remained a point behind.

Despite missing the free throws, Giannis came up huge on the very next play. Giannis took on C.J McCollum one-on-one at the top of the key and created yet another steal. He then leaked out to receive the pass for a breakaway dunk that quickly gave the Bucks the lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

On the next play, when Jusuf Nurkic set a high screen and roll, he received the pass on the roll and headed to the basket. Giannis’ primary responsibility was the shooter in the corner and yet he read the action correctly and was ready and waiting at the rim for Nurkic. Giannis times Nurkic’s shot perfectly and rejected him at the rim, which effectively ended the game in favor of the Bucks.

Giannis’ ability as defensive Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in the Bucks’ close win over Portland. In addition, Giannis has also made further improvements in an area of his that has received a lot of attention over the years. He continues to shoot a below average three-point percentage for his career (27.6) and has had a rocky start to this season as well (16.7). It’s likely that Giannis’ three-point shooting will be a significant limitation in his game for the foreseeable future. However, over his career, Giannis has shown an ability to improve his shooting percentage on two-point shots consistently, especially shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet, per basketball-reference. As Giannis has gotten stronger and more explosive, he has developed a strong desire to attack opponents off the dribble and absorb contact at the rim. Whether he blows by his opponent outright or scores through opponents at the rim, Giannis has developed into an offensive force that few players in the league could hope to slow down.

In addition to his scoring, Giannis continues to display his unique ability to handle the ball in transitions and run the Bucks’ offense in the half court as a point forward. This sort of ability separates Giannis from the other elite wings in the league who don’t have the skill or vision to act as a primary playmaker. Giannis is doing much of what he did last year, but seems more aggressive and physically dominant through the first three games of this season. That sort of improvement of course puts Giannis in the MVP discussion (though it is incredibly early in the season to even start this sort of discussion).

Giannis was recently asked about his ability to win the MVP and wasn’t shy about his desire to win the prestigious award.

“I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better,” Giannis stated. “I’ve set the goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.”

What helps solidify Giannis’ ability to be such a strong MVP candidate is also what makes his team less dangerous. The Bucks are woefully dependent on their star and, at least for now, lack the necessary depth to be a true contender in the East.

Through three regular season games, it’s clear that the Bucks will only go as far as Giannis can take them. And that is the key to Giannis’ budding MVP campaign. Let’s take a look at last year’s top five MVP candidates. Last year’s winner, Westbrook, has two new star-caliber players (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) to share the spotlight, and the ball, with. James Harden is sharing the ball with Chris Paul, who is currently struggling with a knee injury. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are almost exclusively concerned with the postseason. Kawhi Leonard is similarly crucial to the San Antonio Spurs on offense and defense but has lingering health concerns and has yet to play this season. Finally, Isaiah Thomas is coming off a major hip injury and is not projected to play until January.

With so much uncertainty, Giannis has the opportunity to continue to draw attention as not only the most important player on the Bucks but perhaps the most valuable player in the league. Giannis’ early play this season indicates that this is possible. Despite his early-season outburst, Giannis is giving deference to LeBron James — though he admits he hopes to reach James’ level at some point in the future.

“Definitely [James is] the best player in the NBA. For a few years to come,” Giannis stated. “But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get to that spot from him.”

Perhaps Giannis will take the spot as the best player in the NBA as early as this season. Considering how dominant he has been so far this season, it’s fair to ask “why not?”

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies

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Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to NBA.com, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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