Of the players still on the Grizzlies’ roster at the end of the season, he only averaged more minutes per game than one. When he was on the court, it usually meant that Memphis was either leading or trailing the other team by 15-20 points. Suffice to say, the team wasn’t exactly generous in giving their first round pick (25th overall) from last year, Tony Wroten, much playing time to speak of.
It’s not particularly surprising. Wroten is only 20 years old, and Lionel Hollins is known to be stingy with playing time, particularly with young players. Memphis will likely look to develop Wroten slowly before giving him significant court time. However, limited playing time does make it difficult to assess him.
However, Memphis is very high on Wroten’s upside. A 6’6″ point guard with impressive athleticism and versatility, the Grizzlies do believe he can develop into a real asset for them if given time. At 25th overall, Wroten was a bit of a value pick as his value was starting to creep closer to the teens before the draft. He clearly isn’t ready for the court yet, but if he keeps at it, he could blossom into a very nice player.
The first thing one can notice about Wroten is his lack of polish. He showed glimpses of potential, but inconsistency was a constant theme throughout. It was a huge reason in why Hollins was hesitant about giving Wroten playing time.
Wroten’s jumpshot was the number one concern for him. Take a look at his shot chart. He only attempted 16 threes this season, and connected on only four. Good on him for understanding his limitations and not forcing too many shots, but it is something that will need to be improved. Wroten’s shot mechanics looked noticeably flawed, and he will need to put an effort into fixing that.
Also of concern was Wroten’s decision making at times. He regularly forced layups and passes and it regularly led to blocked layups and turnovers as well. Referring back to the shot chart, he was below average in the paint even in spite of his ability to convert difficult shots–he simply took too many ill-advised layups against bigger defenders. Per 36 minutes, Wroten averaged 3.8 turnovers and he had an assist/turnover ratio of just 1.48. For someone the Grizzlies primarily deployed as their point guard, his decision making was hard to swallow at times.
While it only came in bursts, however, there were moments where Wroten looked extremely nice. The most tantalizing aspect of his game was his athleticism–most noticeably his speed. He was a blur with the ball in his hands, and he used his speed to his advantage in so many situations.
Where his speed helped the most was in dribble penetration. Without a jumpshot to rely on, most of his scoring came through driving to the hoop. Defenders couldn’t keep up with Wroten, and in the pick-and-roll, he could split the defenders to get an open lane. He wasn’t bad at finishing layups and sometimes did finish some very difficult ones, but as I pointed out earlier, he forced an awful lot of layups that were simply too difficult to make.
Wroten did show flashes of incredible passing ability. It would’ve been nice to see him take advantage of it more due to his dribble penetration talent, but from what we could see, there was some real potential from him as a drive-and-kick player. Again, turnovers were a problem, but if he can improve his decision making, that will help hugely towards him recognizing his potential.
Take a look at this clip for an idea of his speed and dribble penetration ability in the pick-and-roll coupled with his ability to pass on the move.
Defensively, Wroten was surprisingly strong. His length and quickness helped him a pesky defender, and he read the passing lanes very well. He might not be as good as Tony Allen or even Mike Conley, but when you watch Wroten play defense, he puts effort into it and pressures opposing point guards.
Wroten averaged a very underwhelming 1.1 steals per 36 minutes, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that number rises significantly going forward in his career. He averaged 1.9 steals in his lone season playing college basketball, and his length and speed are great tools to be working with. Essentially, the table is set for more than what he showed in his rookie season.
One more area of strength was rebounding. Wroten averaged 3.7 boards per 36 minutes, and at 6’6″ with decent hops, he could be a nice source of rebounding from the guard position. It’s not anything outstanding to speak of, but it sets the precedent for Wroten as a Tyreke Evans-type of player that can, at his best, come dangerously close to a triple-double.
While Wroten is very clearly still a work in progress, the Grizzlies have reason to be excited with him. He might not be a difference maker for a few more seasons, but he demonstrated a very tantalizing skillset mixed with a nice athletic profile.
Work remains to be done, but if it all goes well, Wroten could be in the fold with Memphis for a long time. The Grizzlies traded the last point guard they drafted (Greivis Vasquez), only to see him flourish to the tune of 9.0 assists per game, third in the NBA. Something tells me they will be a little more careful with Wroten.