Harnessing Wroten's athleticism

ASSOCIATED PRESS Tony Wroten puts up two of his career-high 30 points in loss to Utah Jazz on Saturday.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Tony Wroten puts up two of his career-high 30 points in loss to Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Posted: March 11, 2014

WHEN YOU LOOK at this 76ers roster and think about moving forward, there are an awful lot of players who probably won't be here next year, simply because for the team to get better, it will need better talent.

Thaddeus Young might not be here simply because he is the most valuable trade commodity the team has and could very well be dangled out there by general manager Sam Hinkie as soon as the season is over. Others, particularly Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams, will almost definitely be back.

Then there is Tony Wroten, the often-erratic, always energetic guard who has been used as a backup to during injuries to starting point guard MCW. Wroten also has played as the backup shooting guard and sometimes the first-unit shooting guard.

Picked up in the offseason from the Memphis Grizzlies, Wroten can be both eye-popping good and hair-pulling bad, sometimes on the same offensive possession. He has a motor that seems to start revving when he gets anywhere near a basketball court, and that is both his best asset and biggest curse. But all this is to be expected from a player who played just 1 year in college and is in just his second year has a pro. He scored a career-best 30 points in Saturday's 104-92 loss to the Utah Jazz, the Sixers' 16th consecutive setback.

"The first thing [with Wroten] is pace," coach Brett Brown said yesterday after his team's practice at Haverford College. "He'll always go 100 miles an hour. Whether he can go from 80 to 20 or 50 to 70 and control his speed is always the challenge for somebody of his mindset and athleticism because he feels like he can get the rim with speed any time he wants, and sometimes he's right. It's just, what are you running into? I think there was a poise on how he used his speed [Saturday], always complemented when you make 12 of 15 shots.

"I see a carryover to him that he plays a little bit smarter, a little bit harder on defense when he's scoring . . . You have to remind him that it's not mutually exclusive, you have to play both sides, not reflective of your offense. I see development in that regard."

Using all the speed and athleticism on the defensive end would be a no-brainer for Wroten, but to his credit he admits that it has taken some effort to put in the defensive effort.

"At the beginning I was more toward the offense, but when Brett Brown comes from San Antonio, if you don't play defense, you're not going to play," Wroten said. "Once I got here and coach Brown started coaching me, I started making defense a priority.

"Not a lot of guys want to take pride on defense. My high school coach told me to have more pride in stopping somebody than scoring on somebody. When I go into the game, that's what I try to think about."

Blessed with speed, quickness and size, the 6-6 Wroten very well could be part of the organization's plans moving forward, if he can accept being a 20- to 25-minute backup.

"He's got another year in his contract," Brown said. "You're looking at a 20-year-old who is trying to get better. I have a real soft spot for him because he wears his heart on his sleeve and he has a real swagger in him that I like. The refinement and polish in anybody's game is what you have to project out. I think [Saturday] you saw the best of Tony Wroten."

The roller coaster of play that is Wroten's M.O. is a work in progress. That he is going to bring a high amount of energy every day is a given.

"He's tough," Young said. "You know you can go to war with him. When he has it going defensively, I think that's the biggest thing, when he gets into the basketball and he's making guys turn the basketball over. He's a tough player. He plays every night hard and the crazy thing about it he's only 20 years old. You can see with some coaching and some teaching and him learning the game a little bit more, he'll be a good player."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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