Tony Wroten was drafted with the 25th pick last summer by the Memphis Grizzlies and as most cases with late first-rounders, he received sporadic minutes and remained an afterthought in the mind of his coach. In fact, Wroten got most of his burn in the D-League with the Reno Bighorns, where he played 10 games and averaged 15.7 points, 3.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game on 41% shooting from the floor.
But this season should be a different story.
After the Grizzlies traded Wroten for a future second-round pick in late August, he now finds himself on a depleted Philadelphia 76ers squad, where he will have an opportunity to showcase his talent. The question, however, remains: Does he have the potential to be a future starter in this league? That's the question I aim to answer in this video breakdown.
Attacking The Basket
One NBA player Wroten drew comparisons to heading into the draft was Tyreke Evans, and after watching game tape, it's easy to see why.
First of all, at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Wroten has great size for a point guard. Secondly, he has very impressive handles and is almost unstoppable going to his left. Thirdly, he is very quick and athletic, which makes it hard for defenders stay in front of him. What's more, he also has the ability to finish in traffic and can alter his shot mid-air, making it difficult for shot-blockers to get what they want.
All in all, Wroten is an excellent one-on-one player who lives in the paint and relentlessly attacks the basket. In 10 games with the Reno Bighorns, he averaged 15.7 points, most of which came at the rim, and attempted 6.6 free throws in just 25.4 minutes per contest.
Luckily for Wroten, this is one aspect of his game that will likely make a smooth transition to the next level.
At his size, Wroten is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, not only because of his scoring ability, but also thanks to his impressive court-vision.
While his assist numbers don't jump off the page - 3.7 per game at Washington and 3.2 in the D-League - Wroten is a very willing passer.
Wroten likes to initiate his offense with a high pick from a big man. Last season with the Bighorns, Wroten had Marcus Landry - one of the best three point shooters in the D-League - and Jerome Jordan - a seven-foot center - as his two main targets. This allowed him to alternate between running pick and rolls and pick and pops, which proved to be devastating. With more weapons in his arsenal at the NBA level, Wroten won't have to look to score as much and can instead, look to pass it off to teammates, which would certainly make life easier for him.
The second aspect of Wroten's game that makes me believe he could become more of a playmaker is his ability to get into the paint at ease. Because he is such a threat close to the basket, the defense has to pay attention to Wroten and collapse when he does drive, which leaves shooters open on the perimeter, as well as big men under the basket.
If Wroten learns to dish the ball off to teammates instead of looking for his own shot all the time, it would help him become a much more complete and efficient player, which is what you expect from your starting point guard.
The biggest downside to Wroten's game is his inability to stretch the floor. In 35 games at Washington, he shot 9-for-56 from three - a woeful 16.1 percent. With the Bighorns, he was much better - 12-for-36 - but it's still not good enough for a defense to respect him so far away from the basket at the next level.
Given his ability to break down a defense with ease and finish with the best of them around the rim, the scouting report on Wroten is quite simple: Go under every screen and force him to settle for threes. As you'll see in the video below, Wroten was left wide open on most of the threes he attempted last season, but he was still only able to knock down 33.3 percent of them.
The main issue with Wroten's jump-shot is that it changes slightly every time. Sometimes he holds a follow through; sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he squares up to the basket; sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he stays on balance; sometimes he doesn't. You get the point.
Another concerning aspect of Wroten's game is that he is a terrible free throw shooter. In college, he shot 154-for-264 from the line - 58.3% - and with the Bighorns, he shot 35-66 - 53%. With someone who attacks the basket as much as Wroten does on a game-to-game basis, you'd like to see that number be up in the, at least, mid-70's.
The good news is that in the preseason, his jumper looked more under control. He also went 33-for-42 from the charity stripe - 78.5 percent - which is a very promising sign. However, it's also important to note that this isn't a problem that will be solved overnight, so it could be a while until we see consistent shooting numbers from Wroten.
Forcing the Issue
To Wroten's credit, he knows he isn't a very good jump-shooter. While he attempted 3.6 threes per game with the Bighorns last season, he almost had to take that many simply because he was left so open. Other than that, he doesn't settle for pull-up or step-back jumpers that are way out of his comfort zone, which is good news.
However, there's also a downside to that approach, as Wroten tends to turn down a wide-open jump-shot, dribble into traffic and either take a tough shot at the rim, or turn the ball over by trying to do too much. In addition, Wroten never uses his right hand. He tends to only drive to his strong side, and on the rare chance that he does go right, he still tries to finish the shot with his left hand, which rarely ends well.
Working on his jump-shot would certainly help solve one of those problems, as defenders would have to close out on him, giving Wroten more room to operate around the basket. As for working on his right hand, well, that's up to him. The fact that he is a lefty makes his inability to go right a little less obvious, but in the NBA, that won't go unnoticed.
The biggest thing that is holding Tony Wroten back from being a starter in the NBA is a reliable jump-shot. Sure, that's much easier to say than it is to accomplish, but it's not as though his jumper is broken. If he's able to accomplish that, Wroten would be able to mix his game up much more, which would inevitably allow him to play to his strengths night in, night out.
Is that good enough for him to start in the NBA? For sure. Let's not forget that Wroten is only 20 years old. He has already shown us that he can get to the rim at will and if the rest of the pieces fall into place, he would have the skill-set you'd expect to see from a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA. And in Philadelphia, he's faced with a perfect opportunity to showcase that.