On draft night, the Memphis Grizzlies selected one of the two players I thought they wanted most at the #25 pick in the first round when they took Tony Wroten, Jr. The University of Washington freshman guard was a top 5 player coming out of high school and played fairly well on a Huskies team that wasn’t as good as expected last season. I did a draft spotlight piece on him a few days before the draft where I looked at his potential and possible impact.
Following the draft, this is what the NBA TV crew had to say about the selection:
My colleague, Andrew Berry, didn’t like the pick when it happened and voiced his displeasure at our table that night. He then decided to write about it yesterday. To be fair, he got to see Wroten’s predraft workout, and I didn’t, so I am at a slight disadvantage when it comes to evaluating him.
Here’s what I do know about Wroten:
1) He was a Top 5 player in high school.
2) He frequently draws comparisons to Rajon Rondo and Tyreke Evans.
3) He can’t shoot a lick.
4) He was considered by some to be the best pure passer in the draft.
5) He’s a 6’6″ point guard.
6) He’s a 6’6″ point guard!!! (No more mighty mites!)
7) Chris Wallace thinks he was the best player available at #25.
This was a pick based on talent, not need. Otherwise, the team would have selected Festus Ezeli (a much-needed backup for Marc Gasol). The other “talented” players that were on par with Wroten were at the one position the Grizzlies needed even less than PG: power forward. Perry Jones, Arnett Moultrie, Draymond Green…all power forwards. And they all had question marks bigger than Wroten, which made him the logical pick in my opinion.
Is Tony Wroten a sure thing? Of course not. There’s no such thing — especially for a late first round pick. Getting a player who stays in the league for 5+ years at the #25 pick is an accomplishment most of the time.
Does Wroten need plenty of work? Yes, he does. His shooting is abysmal. His right hand is weak. His defense needs work. But….
His upside is tremendous. With his length, athleticism, court vision, ball-handling, and ability to get to the rim, Wroten possesses the kind of talent and skill that should have made him a high lottery pick. If he can work on his deficiencies, then the former Husky could easily leapfrog over Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo on the depth chart as the primary backup to Mike Conley. And let’s face it, Conley will HAVE to get more rest than he did last season.
Furthermore, with his scoring ability, he can help replace the void left by O.J. Mayo’s impending departure. The team still needs a three-point specialist to further complement the frontcourt depth of Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur, and Wroten obviously doesn’t fill that need, but Chris Wallace should be able to find that in free agency or through a trade. This team doesn’t need much, given that they finished with the third best record in the conference , despite missing one of their best players for much of the season. If Wroten can become the combo guard he’s billed as, then that’s one less thing to worry about. In any event, he’s a member of the Memphis Grizzlies now, so I’m supporting him as long as he wears Beale Street Blue.