Delon Wright was on the verge of another impressive, under-the-radar season. He was only playing 17.6 minutes per game, but those minutes were the best the Washington Wizards have consistently looked through the first eight games of the season. The latest reporting by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN suggests Wright will miss the next four to six weeks with an MCL sprain. This is devastating news for the Wizards who are trying to right the ship after an awful 2-7 start to the season.
The 31-year-old combo guard was averaging only 5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on 36.7% shooting from the field this season. This may seem unimpressive, but we now know that Wright’s contributions go beyond his statistical profile after last season. The Wizards have looked like a different basketball team with Wright on the floor last year, having a 26-24 record with him playing and 9-23 when he wasn’t. Washington’s season started falling apart when Wright went down with an injury mid-season. There is a real possibility that things could get much worse this season too.
So far this season, the Wizards have a positive net rating with Delon Wright on the floor, scoring 122.9 points, and allowing 122 points per 100 possessions. With him off the floor, Washington gets outscored by 14.8 points per 100 possessions, making them one of the worst teams of all-time. We can chalk this up to a small sample size, but there is too much evidence from last season that suggests that the Wizards need the veteran steadiness of Delon Wright.
Wright may not be a dynamic scorer or a pick-and-roll player who will drive a team’s offense to success. But he consistently makes good decisions, keeps the ball moving, and doesn’t take anything off the table with turnovers or bad shot selections. Defensively, he makes plays, forces turnovers, and gets the team out in transition. He and Bilal Coulibaly are the only guards in the rotation who are net positives on the defensive end. Losing one will hurt the team’s intensity and resistance.
Maybe coach Wes Unseld Jr. will find a solution that works this time. Johnny Davis or Ryan Rollins can step up, or Coulibaly could soak up Wright’s minutes. It may turn out to be better for the Wizards in the long run, but in the near term, the Wizards may struggle to pick up wins in the absence of their defensive anchor and veteran leader.