TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors swapped one point guard for another — and gained some money to manoeuvre in free agency in the process.
The Raptors selected Utah guard Delon Wright with the No. 20 pick on Thursday, gaining a mature player who grew up around the NBA and fits in well with coach Dwane Casey's defensive mindset.
The announcement came just minutes after news broke that GM Masai Ujiri had traded backup point guard Greivis Vasquez to Milwaukee.
"We wanted to kind of have some flexibility a little bit, open up a little bit of space just to keep our options open as we go into free agency. . . keep an open mind where we go with the team," Ujiri said.
The 28-year-old Vasquez was set to make US$6.6 million next season.
In Wright, the Raptors get the winner of the Bob Cousy award as the NCAA's best point guard, and one of the best defensive players at his position in the draft.
"He takes so much pride in (defence), he loves it," Ujiri said. "He's also a good passer. We interviewed tons of his teammates, they loved playing with him, he gets them the ball in the right place, that's character, such a great kid and he's got great size. It was attractive for us."
The six-foot-five Wright is the younger brother — by six years — of Portland Trail Blazers' small forward Dorrell.
"He had a really big influence on me," Delon said on a conference call, ducking out briefly from a draft party of 200 people organized by his brother.
"Obviously being his little brother and seeing him play in the NBA for 11 years really motivated me, and I see how hard work pays off."
Casey said the exposure Wright has had to the league will mean a much smoother adjustment to basketball's big stage.
"He wouldn't be overwhelmed by the NBA," Casey said. "He's grown up around the NBA, he's been to numerous NBA games, worked out with NBA players, so he's not going to come in shellshocked to go against guys in practice."
The 23-year-old from Los Angeles was a bit of a late-bloomer, playing at the City College of San Francisco for two years before transferring to Utah. He's grown into a versatile player, ranking in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in scoring, assists and steals.
He was a second-team all-American in his senior season, and made the all-Pac-12 conference team in both his junior and senior years.
Moments after his name was announced, Wright received a call from Raptors captain and fellow L.A. native DeMar DeRozan.
"He was telling me I don't have anything to worry about, he's going to take care of me, make sure I'm doing my best, and we're just going to get after it," Wright said.
Casey is excited about what the guard can bring on the defensive end, comparing him to Nate McMillan, who Casey coached in Seattle. He's a long point guard who can guard multiple positions.
"It's huge," Casey said. "(Defence) was our issue. . . and where we're going to start training camp is guys guarding the ball, and this young man does an excellent job of that."
Wright also played baseball and football growing up, and said the hand-eye co-ordination developed in baseball has paid dividends on the hardcourt.
The Raptors received the No. 46 pick — Norman Powell, a six-foot-four shooting guard from UCLA — and a future first-round pick for Vasquez.
"First of all, I want to thank Greivis, what a great kid, I'm known him for many years," Ujiri said. "That was one of the toughest things I've ever done is speak to Greivis today after you make the trade. I tell you what, it's not easy."
Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 82 games this past season. He made 29 starts.
He shot 40.8 per cent from the field, and hit a career-best 37.9 per cent from three-point range.