This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 22 Interview Issue. Subscribe today!
UTAH'S DELON WRIGHT spent last winter darting and slicing past Pac-12 defenses, and yet ... "I didn't get noticed at all," the 6-foot-5 guard says with a laugh. He's used to it, though. Wright swallowed his pride for two seasons in juco and his junior year with the Utes, watching as names like Parker and McDermott grabbed the headlines. But just try to ignore Wright this season. In overtime against No.8-ranked Wichita State on Dec. 3, Wright (15 ppg, 5.1 apg) nailed a go-ahead jumper with 14 seconds left, shutting down the Shockers' 35-game regular-season winning streak and helping propel the Utes from a No. 25 AP ranking to No. 13. Up next? A chance to drop more jaws in tonight's matchup against BYU, proving why NBA scouts see him as a possible first-rounder:
HE'S A COLLEGE MVP
According to his value add rating, Wright was neck and neck with UConn's Shabazz Napier last season. The metric, developed by stats pro John Pudner, assesses how many wins a player contributes to his team over that of a theoretical replacement player, similar to baseball's WAR. If Wright keeps it up, "he'd be one of the greatest college players ever," Pudner says.
HE CAN PASS
Last season Wright finished among the top 100 nationally in true shooting percentage, assists and steals, and his defensive win share of 3.2 ranked second, behind only NBA lottery pick Aaron Gordon. This season, Wright is sixth in the Pac-12 in assist rate with 34.2 percent. And when Wright is passing, Utah is winning. Last week Wright completed seven assists against Wichita State.
HE'S A TWO-WAY PLAYER
Wright thrives in any style. Transition offense? In the 95th percentile last season. Pick-and-roll? The 87th. Through his first seven games this season, Wright converted 74 percent near the rim and shot 46.7 percent from 3, up 9.8 percent from the same time last year. His versatility creates mismatch problems, says USC coach Andy Enfield: "He's a bigger guard that sees the floor and is explosive getting to the basket."
HE'S STILL IMPROVING
Wright is already blitzing the stat sheet the way he did in 2013-14, which has gotten the attention of scouts. Wright is 35th in DraftExpress.com's 2015 mock draft, and is adding more tricks and extra layers of confidence to his innate lateral quickness. When Pudner and Wright's older brother Dorell, an 11-year NBA vet, watch Wright now, they see traces of Dwyane Wade: the long strides and body control, the hesitation dribbles and Euro steps, an array of six-foot bank shots and other creative finishes. When Utah dominated Alabama State 93-62 on Nov. 29, Wright scored 24, grabbed seven rebounds and completed six assists. In just 30 minutes of play. Draft analyst Jonathan Givony appreciates Wright's "superb knack for being in the right place at the right time," and Arizona State's Herb Sendeck says "he can influence the outcome of the game on almost any possession." Yes, unlike last season, we've noticed.