Drawing accolades as one of the most talented young players in America since he was in 8th grade, Tony Wroten
finally landed on the college basketball landscape and had a solid overall season for the Washington Huskies, prominently displaying both his many well defined strengths and weaknesses all year long. Washington's NCAA tournament hopes ended prematurely with a loss in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals to Oregon State, and it couldn't have happened in a worse way for Wroten, who played a spectacular second half but missed four consecutive free throws in the closing possessions of the 86-84 game.
Standing somewhere between 6-5 and 6-6 with a solid frame, good length, and very good overall athleticism, Tony Wroten
has a great set of tools for the shooting guard position, and even better one for a combo or point guard. Wroten plays with a very aggressive mentality on the offensive end, taking full advantage of his physical attributes at this level.
Wroten's offensive game revolves heavily on his ability to attack the basket off the dribble, both in the half court and transition. He's a very ball dominant player who sees the majority of his looks in isolations or pick-and-rolls, being a Tyreke Evans
-esqe force at times lowering his shoulder and barreling his way into the lane.
Wroten has excellent ability to get to the rim at this level, having a strong first step, terrific ability to change speeds and directions with the ball, strong ball-handling ability, great instincts in the lane, and a mean streak going hard to the basket, as evidenced by his excellent 7.8 free throw attempts compared to just 13.1 field goal attempts per-game. His ability to create his own shot is an incredibly coveted skill in today's NBA, and is something that would likely translate over fairly quickly despite his young age.
Wroten does have one major Achilles heel with his dribble drive game, however, and that's his very deficient right hand, which he struggles with when both creating and finishing. While Wroten starts a good deal of his drives heading right, he does so predominantly to set up opportunities to go back left. On the occasions he does go all the way to the basket with his right hand, he invariably attempts to finish with his left, usually with poor results. In isolations charted by Synergy Sports Technology this season, Wroten is scoring a very strong 0.98 points per possession on drives going left compared to just 0.66 going right, a very wide disparity that most coaches in the Pac-12 caught onto very quickly, even if they did not always have the personnel to take advantage of it.
Holding a consistent size and athleticism advantage over most of his matchups at this level and not usually facing NBA-caliber help defenders in the paint, Wroten is able to consistently overcome his one-sided dribble-drive game, but may face more problems in the NBA, especially against well-coached defensive teams. On the other hand, the more well-spaced and isolation/pick-and-roll oriented NBA is also undoubtedly a better fit for his game stylistically, so that could offset some of his other issues.
Wroten's bigger offensive problem projecting forward is likely his dreadful perimeter shooting ability, as he shot an atrocious 0.532 points per shot on jumpers according to Synergy, and an equally unimpressive 58% from the free-throw line and 18% from behind the three-point arc. As was the issue throughout his high school career, Wroten exhibits inconsistent mechanics and poor feel with his shot, never really showing sustained progress in this area of his game. He made just 3 of the 24 jumpers he attempted this season with his feet set, which makes it very difficult for him to play off the ball since the defense does not need to respect his shooting range. Wroten also has troubles with his mid-range game, not showing the ability to pull-up off the dribble consistently (6/27 this season) and being very erratic with floaters and runners in the lane.
Wroten does bring another plus offensive skill to the table, however, and that is his excellent court vision and passing ability, even though this also comes with some problems. While Wroten possesses superb ability to see the floor and make many difficult passes on drive-and-dishes or when splitting double teams, it isn't something he consistently utilizes. While Wroten is averaging a solid 3.6 assists per-game on the season, he's also averaging an awful 3.9 turnovers per-game and 0.22 turnovers per-possession. Wroten is prone to frequently making lackluster passes that are easily picked off, not showing urgency and focus consistently in this area of his game. While Wroten has ample tools to play the point guard position in terms of his size, court vision and ball-handling, he's never consistently shown the ability to run a team's offense and balance his game.
On the defensive end, Wroten has actually had a more consistently positive season, being an effective defender overall having fewer problems than on the offensive side of the ball. With his superior size, strength, length, and instincts, Wroten has spectacular potential on this end of the floor, and is a very effective man-to-man defender at the two-guard spot when he locks in. He's very prone to gambling, be it swiping at the ball in isolation situations or lunging into the passing lanes, but he has excellent anticipation and hands, which leads to a lot of disruptive plays for him, as well as plenty of steals and rebounds. He is prone to letting out of his stance and his urgency level can drop when things aren't going well for him, but overall he has good tools to guard the two-guard or combo-guard spot well in the pros, and could be an excellent defender if he truly commits himself.
Looking forward, Wroten brings some excellent skills to the table with his physical tools, aggressive dribble-drive game, passing ability, and defense, but he also has some notable weaknesses to overcome, all of which will likely become even more glaring at the next level and none of which he's shown much of a learning curve with in his career.
While there's little doubt he could put up numbers on a bad team in the NBA if given the minutes and enough possessions, the bigger question is if he can do so efficiently, within a team concept, and in a way that helps his team win games, something that will likely be dependent on the development of his decision-making, right hand, and perimeter shooting ability. The fact that he was unable to lead his team to the NCAA tournament, even in the very weak Pac-12, is a major red flag, and evidence of his struggles playing winning, efficient basketball at this stage of his career.
At just 18 years old, Wroten still has plenty of time to reach his potential, and his draft stock could vary widely from team to team depending on how they view his likelihood to improve his many weaknesses. Based on talent alone, Wroten is likely a top-10 pick in this draft, but teams will need to factor in how he fits with their current personnel and style of play in evaluating whether they'll be able to take advantage of that, and how long that might take.
Considering his age and the upside of having such a dynamic shot-creating force on the roster, and the weakness of this draft class at the point guard position, the longer Wroten is on the board the more likely teams may be willing to overlook his weaknesses. Teams tend to fall in love with talent in the NBA draft, and Wroten will be one of the more interesting case studies to follow should he elect to put his name in.