I made the 4 hour trek back home from Tuscaloosa, AL on Friday for a few reasons. My girlfriend was offered free tickets being the main one, but the chance to see the Grizzlies' 2012 1st round draft pick, Tony Wroten, in person, made it too much to pass up.
All we've heard from the beginning is how big of a project Wroten will be. And this couldn't be farther from the truth. Wroten looked both good and bad in the Grizzlies' final preseason game, as he dazzled with wrap around passes and dumbfounded with turnovers in transition.
Expect Wroten to continue to be a mixed bag. During the preseason, he was Rookie of The Year material on one possession, then D-League project the next. Sometimes the change took place in one possession. Take for example several times when Wroten would blow past his defender and then turn the ball over with a bad pass in the paint, leaving few players back to cover in transition and Lionel Hollins burying his face in his palms.
He was able to get 40 minutes this preseason, sitting out either because of an ankle injury or a coach's decision in several games. With that time, he scored 18 points on 6-14 from the field, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. But again, with Wroten expect for the bad to come with the good as he also added 7 turnovers.
The problem with the Grizzlies' ability to develop young point guards has always been Lionel Hollins' impatience. The key to his development as a pure point guard and floor leader will be Hollins' acceptance of the 7 turnovers with the other positive numbers. Wroten is a player that is going to have to get minutes to get better, and minutes might be tight at an already solid point guard spot.
One thing that did stick out was Wroten's physical attributes. The guy's body is as NBA ready as it can be, pending a little weight gain to his upper body. His height allows him to contribute to cleaning up the glass, and his length provides passing lanes that would not be there for most of the Grizzlies shorter, stockier point guards. That same length allows to contort his body in a way that allows him to score from odd angles around the basket. He was able to score on a drive Friday night by extending under the arm of a defender and spinning the ball off the side of the rim. It's plays like that when you see the star in the making that is Tony Wroten.
But what's the ceiling for him? One of the names we've heard tossed around after the draft for comparison was Rajon Rondo, and while that would provide lofty expectations, I think it provides a good starting point. Rondo's per 36 minute numbers in his rookie season weren't exactly amazing. The neighborhood of 10 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds would put him in the same category, which is a good starting point. Shooting will always be a problem, but it's passing and getting to the rim, Rondo's key attributes, that are going to make Wroten a lot of money.
All in all, I really like what I saw out of Wroten last Friday. Seeing him live really showed just how physically impressive he is. It's easy to see, with his long 6'3'' frame, why Chris Wallace took a flyer on him. With Bayless on a 2 year contract that includes a player option for 2013-14, look for Wroten to be the long term stop gap behind Conley. If he can get minutes, even if just in junk time and road games against cellar dwellers, it will go a long way towards providing the Grizzlies with the talented young point guard they've been looking to bring off the bench for years.