As noted Thursday, Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw tweeted that the Kings will soon sign 26-year-old wing Antoine Wright to a 1-year contract. Wright is known as a defender primarily, and would be expected to back up the shooting guard and small forward positions. As such, we ought to look at his defensive performance last year in Toronto.
I will preface this by noting that Toronto had the worst defense in the league. Yes, worse than the Warriors, Wolves and Knicks. Was Wright part of the problem, or a glimmer of hope stuck in the mire?
We turn again to Synergy Sports, which uses play-by-play data and video tracking to provide a database of offensive and defensive performance for the 2009-10 season. We've previously used it to look at the defense of Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Tyreke Evans, Samuel Dalembert and Spencer Hawes. See all StR's Synergy posts here.
Like Casspi and Evans, Wright defended exceptionally well in isolation. Wright had 89 isolation plays on defense, and limited opponents to 31.6% shooting and 0.7 points per possession, good for 35th in the league. He seems to do it primarily by forcing jumpers and denying dribble penetration out of isolation. To wit, only a handful of players scored lay-ups on Wright out of isolation: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Sergio Rodriguez (!) and Tyreke Evans. Everyone else settled for jumpers (and the aforementioned players all -- save Sergio, who had just one possession opposite Wright -- setttled for jumpers on most possessions against Wright).
But isolation plays made up just 17% of all Wright's defensive possessions. The biggest share came against spot-up shots.
Wright defended spot-up shots 136 times, making up 26% of his defensive possessions. How'd he do? Opponents scored 0.9 points per possession, good for 95th in the league -- above average. Opponents had an effective field goal percentage of .461 on spot-up plays, with the bulk of the shots (81 of 118) coming from long-range, where opponents shot 33.3%. The Kings in total have problems chasing shooters, from Jason Thompson to Evans on down. Wright seems to be better, and perhaps we'll see opponents' three-point percentage (12th highest last year) go down a bit.
The one other high-possession defense play Wright defended was the ball-handler end of the pick-and-roll. He was right in the middle of the pack here, allowing 0.89 points per possession on 34% shooting and too much fouling (a shooting foul on 13.3% of the plays). Wright's isolation defense is so good because he rarely fouls; his solid shooting defense on the pick-and-roll is hampered by his fouling. The numbers on the pick-and-roll would look much better if he didn't send opponents to the stripe so frequently.
Wright had just under 50 opportunities to defend off screens, which he did really well, and in the post, which he did pretty poorly. Off screens, Wright limited shooters to an eFG of 32.5%, and rarely fouled. Neither was the case in the post, where a wide assortment of wings and bigs abused Wright to the tune of 0.98 points per possession. In the post, LeBron went 5-5 against Wright, and had three FTAs on top of it. Granted, LeBron gives everyone trouble. But you get the idea. Wright isn't suited to play small ball.
On the whole, Wright is solid enough defender to help the Kings along this season. Best of all, perhaps, is that his reputation is solely made on defense, so he'll know his role and (hopefully) limit his offense to taking open shots created by Evans, Beno and Mystery Third Ball-Handling Guard To Be Named Later.