Tony Wroten Deserves A Better Picture Than His Advanced Statistics Indicate

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

I will defend Tony Wroten's honor.

Despite not making more than a lazy, half-hearted attempt to explain the math behind the statistic (which means you should be very skeptical of it, and until then it probably shouldn't be used as the basis of an argument), ESPN has decided to seemingly dedicate its week of NBA-related Insider articles to the new RPM statistic, or Real Plus-Minus.

Without providing specifics, because again they don't provide any, which is stupid, the statistic's intention is to remove the "noise" in an individual's plus-minus. The stat does not like the Sixers, which makes sense considering the Sixers have the league's worst point differential. Three Sixers make up the bottom 5 of the list: Elliot Williams (last), Byron Mullens (second to last), and Tony Wroten (fifth to last).

Williams makes sense, because he's mostly terrible. Mullens actually hasn't been as awful as advertised here, while healthy (yet). But Wroten stings because I adore his recklessness and admire his talents and game.

For instance, plus-minus can't measure this (from SB Nation's Conrad Kaczmarek):

Wroten_medium.

But more seriously, the limitations that newfangled basketball statistics have, and basketball analytics as a whole, seem to work against Tony Wroten, and I will not accept that. Whether we're talking about the draft, as Derek did not too long ago in a comment-turned-post, or in players who have NBA experience, there's always noise and speculation when accounting for the interactions of players.

Statistics in the NBA don't tell you how good a player is: they tell you how a player produced given his role and environment. Whether basic or advanced, there's always going to be an issue that way.

We know Tony Wroten takes way too many threes despite being maybe the worst shooter in the league. In a league where shooting by complementary players is all but necessary to compete, well, you can come out looking really bad if placed in that kind of role. Unfortunately, because the Sixers have a promising young point guard they're trying to develop, Wroten's largely in that kind of support role, especially since the trade deadline.

The lack of talent on the team hurts stats across the board, but I'm not sure it hurts anyone more than Wroten. As I've mentioned before, his shot locations are basically perfect. He only shoots threes or scores in the paint. He's just not that good at the execution - in either area, really.

But why is that? The three point shooting isn't much of a mystery. Look at the shot form. It's cringe-worthy. Nobody should ever learn to shoot like that. What kind of disaster leads to that?

The paint shots are a more interesting story, and there are many dynamics at work. To start: Wroten doesn't appear to be a bad finisher. At times, he looks like he's good at it, with explosive athletic ability and the always-helpful lefty leaning. Ed Kupfer, who works for the Rockets and tweets out interesting NBA-related graphs on a semi-regular basis, put out a graph with the average shot length for two-point attempts across the league. I noted Wroten's average two-point attempt comes from within 4 feet of the rim. Among players averaging less than 4 feet in distance on their shots, only 3 have more shot attempts than Wroten: Dwight Howard, Nikola Pekovic, and Andre Drummond. The process seems really sound.

But he also has no right hand to speak of, and defenders rarely defend him outside the paint. Also, the entire lack of a threat from midrange, his refusal to shoot from there at all, could lead defenses to sag further off him even when he gets the ball relatively close to the rim. Finally, a lack of shooting surrounding him lets opponents send extra help in the paint (this also hurts MCW's paint numbers, and overall shooting percentage as well).

Add it all up, and he converts less than half his shots at the rim. The results speak of a largely valueless player, combining his true weaknesses with the manufactured ones. But I have hope, and even though this may just be a shameless defense of Wroten, I feel traditional and advanced stats undersell what his talents could really bare given a better situation and experience.

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