3 Observations from Delon Wright’s impressive Miami Heat debut

Erik Spoelstra rewards Delon Wright after impressive Miami Heat debut.
Miami Heat v Sacramento Kings
Miami Heat v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Delon Wright made his Miami Heat debut in Monday night’s 121-110 win over the Kings in Sacramento and he made it clear that he’s a seamless fit. Here are three observations from his 35-minute performance.

1. Delon Wright’s defense will turn into Heat offense

A little more than five minutes into his Heat debut, Wright scored his first points in a Heat uniform after recording his first steal in a Heat uniform.

After Haywood Highsmith’s 3-pointer, the Kings inbounded the ball and Davion Mitchell pushed the pace, finding Malik Monk with a hit-ahead pass. On the right side of the floor, Monk pump faked and drove past two-way contract guard Cole Swider to get into the teeth of Miami’s defense. With multiple Heat defenders reacting, Monk tried to thread a bounce pass to Domantas Sabonis at the top of the arc.

Wright read it the whole way. He jumped the passing lane, grabbed the ball with both hands and outran two Kings for a layup.

Watch as Wright looks at his teammates over-react to Monk, then turns to see Sabonis trailing the play. Rather than add another unneeded body to the heap of Heat defenders, he positions himself to make a swing play. 

This is an example of what Wright can add. He averages 2.1 steals per 36 minutes for his career. Only six active players (Chris Paul, Thaddeus Young, Andre Drummond, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook) have more seasons averaging at least 2.5 steals per 100 possessions, per MiamiHeat.com’s Couper Moorhead. (Wright’s seven is tied with Jimmy Butler.)

Wright had another steal and a block in the game. Here’s the block.

Wright hounds Monk over a Sabonis screen and along the baseline and nearly forces Monk out of bounds. Monk flings a right-handed bounce pass to a cutting Harrison Barnes, who is 6-foot-8. Wright, listed at 6-foot-5, turns his body, gets vertical and contests Barnes at the rim. 

Wright gets out on the break, patiently waits for a Kevin Love screen and draws a foul on a drive. 

The block itself was impressive, but the ensuing offensive possession was yeoman’s work. Where a lot of players might have tried to add to their highlight with a pull-up 3, Wright drew contact and got to the line. 

Wright finished with 13 points on 3 of 5 shooting (2 of 4 on 3s), five assists, two rebounds, two steals, one block and zero turnovers.

“The player of the game for us in the locker room was Delon,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t think his stat line was spectacular by people probably on the outside. But, man, he plays winning basketball.”

2. No turnovers

Five assists and zero turnovers is in line with what the Heat can expect from Wright, who has 87 assists to just 11 turnovers all season.

Wright has several finds that look easy because he is decisive and quick to react. Here, he's pointing out that Highsmith is open before the ball is swung to him. Wright grabs the ball and goes to the bucket, dragging Sacramento’s defenders into the paint before pinging the ball to Highsmith in the corner. It’s crisp, no-nonsense basketball. 

Highsmith made two corner 3s in the game. Wright assisted on both.

“He just has a great knack for knowing how to make the right play,” Spoelstra said. “Thirty-five minutes, didn’t turn the ball over and made some big plays.”

Wright’s biggest assist of the night might have been a corner 3 he generated for Jaime Jaquez Jr., who had been struggling with his shot coming into this game. Since returning from a groin strain, Jaquez had missed 23 of his 27 attempts from distance in his last 10 games.

Jaquez made his first 3-pointer in more than two weeks on a similar dish from Wright, who caught the ball in the corner, drove into the paint and found Jaquez wide open in the corner. 

Jaquez exploded for 16 of his 26 points after that moment, including some big buckets down the stretch. Wright can be credited for lighting the fuse.

3. Wright will have a spot in the rotation

This was Wright’s first game since joining the Heat during the All-Star break. He didn’t play in Miami’s first post-All-Star game on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans but suspensions and injuries thrust him into the starting lineup. He did not disappoint.

It’s easy to see how Wright fits in going forward. He provides disruptive defense that can lead to easy points and his no-frills approach on offense will mesh well when playing alongside Butler and Tyler Herro.

The Heat will get Butler and Nikola Jovic back from their one-game suspensions for Tuesday night’s game in Portland. Terry Rozier and Tyler Herro are considered questionable and Josh Richardson isn’t likely to return. Either way, there will be minutes for Wright in the short-term and a chance to earn a regular spot in Miami’s playoff rotation.

“I just wanted to come in and play how I know how to play,” Wright said. “Take care of the ball, play good defense, get deflections and then I knew the rest was going to take care of itself.”