What does Tony Wroten need to show this season?


With the NBA season on the horizon and the Philadelphia 76ers projected to be

one of

the worst team in the NBA, many would deem a second-straight tanking season as not worthy of watching. On the contrary, in addition to monitoring the progress of players like Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams who the Sixers have invested the future in, it is also a chance to evaluate role-players that fit into that future. At some point, Sam Hinkie will be forced to construct a team that can actually compete on a nightly basis, and that includes truly giving the current talent on hand a fair look. A good amount of the Sixers’ roster won’t be here next year, but one player that could fit into Hinkie’s long-term plan is Tony Wroten.

Entering his third season out of Washington, Wroten is a player that has shown solid potential, albeit only in small doses. As a rookie he was under-utilized by the Memphis Grizzlies. Once he was acquired last summer via trade by the Sixers, his stock instantly rose. Averaging 24.5 minutes a game, Wroten proved to be the best option off the bench as he put up 13 points a game. When Michael Carter-Williams was forced to miss time due to injury last season, Wroten also showed his value as a potential spot starter. As one of the few Sixers that can consistently score on a nightly basis, his contributions to the team in that regard aren’t credited enough.

All that said, as a third year player, Wroten is entering a season that will greatly affect the rest of his NBA career. The Sixers have to make a choice on his 2015-16 option after this year, and given that full-on tanking might not be part of the plan next year, the team will be forced to decide on whether they view Wroten as more than just a tanking placeholder.

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As a primary player for these Sixers, many will look at his stats as inflated and ultimately unimpressive, and to a degree they would be right. However at the end of the day, he has to compete against elite competition as much as every other guard in this league, so he shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. With Carter-Williams out indefinitely, Wroten is slated as the starting point-guard for at least the first month of the season. How he runs an offense in that first month of the season will determine just how valuable he can be.

From a performance standpoint, there are some glaring issues that Wroten must improve on. His inefficiency is a thing of concern, but as one of the few (and at times the only one) that can keep this team competitive offensively, it is a problem that you have to keep in perspective. Many of the bad attempts stem from the fact that Wroten is required to force shots in situations where his teammates can’t get anything going. His biggest strengths lie in his speed and ability to stay ahead of defenders, but as the starting point guard he’ll have to become more of a playmaker.

Right now his ability to facilitate is okay at best, but with MCW out he’ll need to hone in his impulses to score. Finding good looks for his teammates will determine if the Sixers have a shoot-first guard or a truly capable ball handler that can compliment a healthy MCW moving forward. Wins and losses aren’t the deciding factor for this team right now, so that means honing your ability to play effectively has to be a top priority.

It should also be noted that in an NBA, where three point shooters are becoming quite the commodity–and the Sixers already have a point-guard who doesn’t fall into that catergory–it would be nice to see Wroten improve in that department. Last season he shot 21% from the three, which is far from providing any sort of downtown shooting presence.

In my mind, while he certainly has his flaws (his right hand and jumper mainly), I think its fair to suggest that Wroten has the potential to be a solid rotation player for years to come. If he can develop his jumper, and display an ability to get to the hoop with both hands, he has the athleticism to be one of the better sixth men in the league. But that’s easier said than done.

What Wroten can do is create off the dribble, and cause mismatches on any given night. At 6’6″ he’ll have a distinct advantage over most of the point guards he’ll face, and last season he made it work for the most part.

As it stands, if he isn’t a realistic part of the equation, Hinkie can at least use Wroten as a trade asset to obtain at least another second-round pick. On a team filled with players that can just be released at any given time, the combo guard at least has that much security behind him.

With all that said I think its realistic to say that if Wroten can improve his playmaking while limiting turnovers with Carter-Williams out, he’ll have earned his spot on this team for years to come. We already know that he is the most effective player off the bench for this team, and if he can be effective on the occasional start that only ups his value. If he can bump his assist averages up to six a game, and maintain a solid 15 points a night as a starter, then Hinkie has something to work with.

Nerlens Noel, MCW, Joel Embiid, K.J. McDaniels and eventually Dario Saric seem like the only for sure players moving forward, but to think Wroten couldn’t fit into those plans in some way would be a discredit to everyone involved.

With the season opening for the 76ers next Wednesday against Indiana, Wroten has a chance to properly lead the team as a floor general. Indiana is still a strong team defensively, so managing his turnovers and making good shot attempts will go a long way into his development. He certainly has the tools to get it done, now its all about making that potential a reality. On this team he’ll certainly get the opportunity to do just that.

Watch below as Section 215 Senior Editor Tim Kelly breaks down what he wants to see out of Wroten in 2014-15