What Have the Sixers Gotten in Tony Wroten?

USA TODAY Sports

Tony Wroten hasn't had much time to prove what he can do. Here's why the deal makes all the sense in the world, from both sides.

As you may have heard, the Sixers acquired project point guard Tony Wroten (pronounced WROTE-in)from the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday for nothing of importance (aka a future protected second round pick). Wroten, who just turned 20 in April, will be involved in the backcourt mess of currently unfilled potential with Michael-Carter Williams, James Anderson, and Evan Turner, among others. Like many Sixers fans, I am excited about the prospect of this deal.

Then, you may ask, why was this guy available for so cheap? Here’s your (primary) answer: Wroten, simply put, cannot shoot a basketball at an acceptable level for an NBA point guard. That’s his issue. His lefty jumper is, at best, inconsistent. At worst, it hurts to watch, with elbows flying and a constantly changing release point that makes you wonder if anyone’s ever actually tried working with his shot.

In limited playing time last year, Wroten put up a wondrously bad 46.1% True Shooting Percentage – had he played enough minutes to qualify, that would have been the 21st worst in the league, despite being more efficient from the foul line in limited attempts than he showed in college. He cannot be a good NBA player if he can’t improve dramatically at that part of the game, a part which he’s never excelled at.

However, if he gets that shot to fall slightly more often? Watch out. Wroten, as a 6’6” point guard, has mostly everything else you’d want in a raw, young player. He jumps out of the gym, displays natural point guard skills, (even though he can be too aggressive with his passing, but that’s actually something I like seeing in young point guards), rebounds well for his position, and plays hard all the time. Like many young players, he struggled with NBA defense in his first year, but limited playing time and being 19 years old could do that to a person – especially considering he also had to deal with a major life adjustment in leaving college and his life in the Pacific Northwest for the pros at such a young age*.

*I too often forget about the major off-court adjustments that young NBA players have to make and how they affect life and decisions. As much as playing basketball is a fun activity for most, for young NBA players it’s their first job and first time living on their own. This revelation brought to you by me being helpless while trying to iron clothes this week.

His size and athleticism indicate that he should be a good defender in time. His non-shooting offensive skills indicate that he can be a very good, or at least useful, offensive player if he can solidify his shooting. And we acquired him in a salary dump. The shooting is obviously troublesome – he’s never been particularly good at it, and it looks like it will take a complete reconfiguring to make it work. Summer league Wroten didn’t appear to be a particularly effective shooter either. But I feel the need to stress time: he still has eight months until he can legally purchase alcohol. He’s also nearly a year and a half younger than MCW. Time is on his side, even if his shooting mechanics currently aren’t.

Besides Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown, the third most important person employed by the Sixers might be a shooting coach. Paying one to help the bricklayers shoot better might save them some money on shattered glass removal. Also it would help many of our young players get better at the worst parts of their game. That seems nearly as important. It’ll also be interesting to see how he fits in the rotation with MCW and Turner – three big point guard/forwards who like to make plays themselves would seem to not work well together, but then again it might be better if they can’t.

There’s also a second answer to why this deal was made: the Sixers took the flyer on Wroten after Memphis gave up on him. While that expression might be a bit strong, signing another backup point guard (in not-so-international man of mystery Nick Calathes) pretty much spelled his doom in Grit-and-Grind Town. But the Grizzlies have championship aspirations and lingering luxury tax concerns, so someone like Wroten is more of a luxury for them than a necessity. It doesn’t make sense for the Grizzlies to keep a luxury on their roster when they have both financial and competitive pressures that can be alleviated by replacing him and then sending him packing.

But because of Philly’s situation, Wroten (or players like him) is a necessity. The Sixers need young players with talent, players whom if developed right can matter when the Sixers matter and actually care about winning. While that might not be for a while, the player we just received should still be very young whenever that occurs.

The Sixers traded for Tony Wroten because he was available for virtually nothing other than money they had to spend and a roster spot they had to fill. Acquiring the 25th overall pick in the 2012 Draft for practically nothing is straight thievery, especially when considering the weaknesses Wroten was perceived to have coming into the draft continue to be weaknesses today, and his strengths remain just as much intact. These are the types of gambles that Sam Hinkie has to keep playing: ones with no downside and high reward. Eventually, the payoffs are going to be huge.

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