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Wright Turn Ahead

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All the caveats must apply: It is only preseason. He is getting more time than players who established themselves as rookies, time he probably won't get when the season begins. Some top-flight second year players have been hurt. And yes, it is only preseason.

But all that said, preseason statistics are showing that Antoine Wright has made a remarkable turnaround. He has gone from a rookie season where many thought he was a bust to a preseason where he is the leading scorer among those taken in the 2005 Draft.

And as anyone who has seen him play this preseason can tell you, he looks like a different player: more confident, stronger, better ball-handler as well as shooter and defender. He looks worthy of the high pick, #15, that the Nets used to take him.

In five games, he is averaging 16.4 ppg on 53.8% shooting, including 40.0% beyond the arc along with 3.3 rpg and 1.6 apg. And unlike last season, he is holding on to the ball, averaging only one turnover per contest. Most important, Lawrence Frank is giving him time. Wright is averaging 30 minutes per game over five games, three of which he started.

He is averaging more points per game this preseason (16.4) than any player taken after him in the first round, including many who fans had hoped the Nets would take--and who after last season were sure they should have taken--players like Danny Granger of the Pacers (8.0), Gerald Green of the Celtics (7.8), Joey Graham of the Raptors (9.6), Hakim Warrick of the Grizzlies (12.7) Nate Robinson of the Knicks (12.0), Julius Hodge of the Nuggets (DNP), and Jason Maxiell of the Pistons (14.2).

But the biggest surprise is that Wright is the leading scorer in the 2005 draft class better than midway through the preseason, Martell Webster of the Blazers being the second best at 16.0 ppg. Some big names follow. Monta Ellis of the Warriors is third at 14.8, Maxiell fourth at 14.2, Jarrett Jack of the Blazers at 14.0, Raymond Felton of the Bobcats at 13.8, Deron Williams of the Jazz and Marvin Williams of the Hawks at 12.8 each, then Warrick at 12.7, Travis Diener of the Magic at 12.5, to round out the top 10. Three other second year players are averaging more than 10 ppg: Robinson at 12.0, Sean May of the Bobcats at 11.6, Ryan Gomes of the Celtics at 11.2. Anthony Roberson, undrafted in 2005, is averaging 15.5 ppg for the Warriors.

Rookie of the year Chris Paul of the Hornets is averaging 8.8 and top draft choice Andrew Bogut of the Bucks is injured.

No one is saying that he is the best player drafted last year...not by a long shot...but Wright's scoring is an indication of just how much of a turnaround he has made from a player who scored only 1.8 ppg in a mere 39 games, spending most of the year in street clothes...and how much work he obviously put in over the summer.

As Frank told YES Network's Jon Lane: through camp and the preseason, Wright has been the Nets' most consistent player. High praise indeed.