LAS VEGAS - One thing has been made absolutely clear this week, the Grizzlies are most interested in seeing how Tony Wroten's game can and will continue to develop as he heads into his second season in the league.
With John Hollinger, Stu Lash, Dave Joerger and company on hand, the objective for the Grizzlies was all about getting looks for Wroten. In his first three games of the summer, Wroten was far from the best player on the basketball court, let alone his own Summer League team.
He averaged 13.3 points on a horrific 22.5 percent shooting from the floor and 13 percent from the three-point line, with 3.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 4.3 turnovers per game. As a result, the Grizzlies were 0-3 in regular Summer League play, heading into the playoffs round as the 21st seed, out of 22 teams.
In his fourth game, however, Wroten looked like the best player on the basketball court against a Wizards team that was without Otto Porter. There was no doubt who the NBA talent was, and little doubt as to what the objective was -- win, maybe, but definitely continue to let Wroten work on his game. as a result, he found it; found a swagger of sorts that translated in his game and showed in his body language.
After the Grizzlies topped the Wizards, 90-83, for their first Summer League victory, I had the chance to sit down with Wroten and talk to him about what was ultimately his best game of the summer, to date.
Wroten started off the game with the hot hand, hitting his first four shots, including a three-pointer, scoring nine points in seven minutes. He ended the night with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting (2-of-7 from three), six assists, four rebounds and four turnovers in 31.5 minutes.
My first impression from watching Wroten in Game 4 was that despite his struggles in the first three games, he still knew that at the top of the Summer League agenda was for him to work on his jump shot. Wroten said after the game, "I've been working really hard on that, regardless of how many I miss they kept telling me to keep shooting." And that is exactly what he did, becoming, if you will, the objective of Summer League play for the Grizzlies.
Last season Wroten shot just 38.4 percent from the floor in limited action, making just 7-of-36 jumpers, good for just 19.4 percent of his attempts. Again, the Summer League objective was to fix this. The aesthetics of his shot looked better in warmups, but without a live hand in his face he can't expect to get better.
Another aspect of his game he was looking to improve on was his play-making ability. The Grizzlies need to decide whether or not he can be a hybrid passing point who can relieve Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless and company for a handful of minutes, maybe more.
Wroten said that he's trying to work on "everything, whether it's the one or the two," and whatever the team tells him to do, he's looking to control the ball and act as a play-maker when needed. Turning the ball over 4-plus times per game doesn't help his case, but he did look like he was capable of playing the point and running the offense against the Wizards, where he dished six assists (with four turnovers).
Is he the answer as a backup point guard this season? He has plenty of development left to do before the Grizzlies can hand him the reins, but he looked better against Washington, more confident. Developmental steps; the reason he played this summer.
One aspect of his game that looked consistently "good" -- with still room to improve -- was his defense. He averaged two steals per game over his first four games and was certainly active in the way that Grizzlies basketball is disruptive. He even said that "no one" came to mind when I asked him about a "tough guard" in their four Summer League games -- confidence -- giving only a nod to Archie Goodwin of the Suns who, yes, has some serious game.
What it has come down to for the Grizzlies, who saw some nice looks from guys like Gerald Robinson, Jack Cooley, Willie Reed and Donte Greene at times -- four guys who may not get a sniff in Memphis this season -- this summer was and is all about Tony Wroten.
He's not there, but he's getting better. You have to almost forgive Wroten for missing his jumpers, since the only way to really fix it is to get said jumpers up in game action. It looks better, it's not there, but he's working on it. And in the summer, that's about all you can ask for.
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