Sixers Summer Mailbag: Keep Ish Smith or Tony Wroten?


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Kyle from Media: Assuming the Sixers draft either D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, should the Sixers hold onto Tony Wroten or Ish Smith as the primary backup?

My response: Besides what pick the Sixers land in this month’s lottery and who they select in June’s draft, this may be the most interesting storyline this off-season.

Tony Wroten didn’t completely tear his ACL in late January and all we knew at that time was that he underwent surgery that was going to cause him to miss the rest of the season. Beyond that, there hasn’t been a clear timetable laid out for Wroten.

Prior to Wroten’s injury, the third year man out of Washington was averaging a team high 16.9 points per-game, while dishing out over five assists and grabbing two boards per contest. Though he certainly is far from a complete player, Wroten can get to the hoop with the best of them, which caused the Sixers to start to draw trade interest in him prior to the eventual season-ending injury.

Had he not gotten injured, there’s a very good chance that he, not Austin Rivers, would be playing a crucial role for the Clippers in the playoffs, as they were one of the teams reportedly interested in Wroten

Ish Smith is a 26 year-old journeyman who averaged 6.1 points per-game, with 3.3 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game. On paper, he doesn’t hold nearly the value to the Sixers that Wroten does.

However, under Smith’s guidance, Nerlens Noel thrived more than he did under Wroten or Michael Carter-Williams. Noel even went as far as saying that Smith was the ‘first true point-guard’ that he had played with in the NBA, which many took as a shot at Carter-Williams. While it became apparent that Noel and Carter-Williams, two former AAU teammates, weren’t going to be able to create any sort of great chemistry in the NBA, Noel had also played with Wroten when he made that statement. 

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Smith will be an unrestricted free-agent this season, while Wroten remains under contract for two more seasons. The team may simply elect to let Smith walk and Wroten resume his role on the team, but that’s assuming that his injury is progressing in a manner that he will be ready for the start of the season. It’s also assuming they don’t consider trading Wroten if he’s healthy.

Smith entered the league in 2010-11 and has played with eight different organizations, so he may be willing to come back and compete with Wroten for playing time, while also taking the risk that the Sixers don’t draft their point-guard of the future.

If the Sixers do land, let’s dream here, D’Angelo Russell, and he gels well as both a scorer and distributor with Noel and Joel Embiid, Smith may end up being the odd man out. Wroten provides a scoring punch off the bench that not many teams in the league have. That said, he has his off nights in terms of finishing at the hoop and isn’t very useful when he doesn’t have the ball, which has killed the idea of moving him and his below-average jump-shot to shooting-guard.

It is however, more important to get production out of Nerlens Noel than whoever is serving as back-up point-guard. If Noel feels more comfortable with Smith, that may not be something that the Sixers want to mess with.

Of course, all this is assuming that the Sixers land a pick high enough to draft either Russell or Mudiay. One would think they will, but if the ping-pong balls really don’t fall their way, they could end up with this duo leading their offense.

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