Like Coolio in the 1990s, Tony Wroten took NBA fans on a fantastic voyage this year, reminding us that you don’t have to possess a jumper to be effective in the league as a 20-year-old sophomore. Wroten just turned 21 on April 13 (this is also my mother’s birthday!!) and he’s got a lot of strides still left to make, but Wroten showed something he never got the opportunity to show in his rookie year in Memphis — promise.
Wroten is the first player that I will be grading for the Philadelphia 76ers. Based on each player’s performance this year they will be assigned a “grade” — you tell me if I’m right or wrong.
The Sixers had a rebuilding year and this gave Brett Brown the chance to play some guys that usually wouldn’t get a shot at big minutes. Tony was definitely one of these individuals and has proven to be one of the few benefits of going through a season of futility in the NBA. Now the Sixers’ organization knows they have a viable guard to bring off the bench who is comfortable handling the ball, setting up teammates and most importantly, scoring.
Scoring off the bench, in limited minutes, is an undervalued skill by most casual NBA fans. Coming off the bench cold and being expected to immediately produce in three to five-minute stints is a tall order — one that Wroten proved to be worthy of taking on. Wroten played in 72 games this season and came off the bench in 56 of those, so it’s safe to say that was his role — come off the bench and be ready to produce.
As a reserve Wroten averaged 21.8 minutes per game and put up 11.7 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds with shooting splits of .424/.176/.669. Just those splits alone are going to tell you a major area of concern for Wroten as he moves into his third season in the NBA — he struggles to shoot the basketball. However, his overall field goal percentage of 42.4 isn’t terrible so that’s a plus given the circumstances.
That, my friends, is a lot of RED. The thing to point out here isn’t so much how bad Wroten shot from basically everywhere outside of the paint; it’s that 50 percent of his shots were from IN THE PAINT. That’s an astounding number for a guard that everyone in the league knows cannot shoot, and it shows his uncanny ability to get by people and bulldog his way to the basket.
So, as a reserve Wroten was effective even given his inefficiencies and was able to show enough promise to definitely warrant a spot in next year’s rotation with Philly. If he can improve his jumper, then he still has the potential to be an impact player in the league.
Now — as a starter (and I understand the Sixers were a bad team) Tony put on a show. He only got to start 16 games. In those games his minutes per game went up to 34.1 and he averaged 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists with shooting splits of .432/.286/.551. The 55.1 percent from free throw is something that absolutely HAS to come up and because of Wroten’s ability to get to the basket, he could be at the free throw line a lot.
There were only eight players in the entire NBA that played at least 50 games and averaged at least 30 minutes per game while averaging at least 17 points, four rebounds and five assists — every one of them are playing in the playoffs right now. Kemba Walker, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, John Wall and Kyle Lowry all fit those parameters and so did Tony Wroten during those 16 games he was a starter; pretty amazing company.
Players’ defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) can be greatly affected by their surroundings so take this with a grain of salt but his D-rating wasn’t great either at 111. His O-rating wasn’t the best either coming in at a paltry 92. Average for both is right around 100, so he’s sub-par in that area as well.
Wroten’s best all-around game this year had to be in a game versus the Houston Rockets back on Nov. 13. The Sixers beat the Rockets 123-117 and Wroten finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double (the only one as well). Even in his best game, Wroten struggled with his shooting as he went 7-for-18 overall, 0-for-2 from 3-point range and 4-for-7 from the charity stripe.
All things considered, this has to be deemed a successful season for Tony Wroten. He posted career highs across the board and showed that he can find a place in an NBA rotation. He has plenty to work on, as you would expect for a 21-year-old professional basketball player, and if he can improve mainly his shooting and efficiency while handling the ball (he averaged 2.8 turnovers per game) then he could develop into a nice piece moving forward for Philadelphia.