TO FANS, he may be the most exciting player they've seen on the 76ers this season. To coaches, he is both exciting and frustrating.
That is the package that is Tony Wroten right now, like it or not. For this team of young players during a season in which just about everyone is on an extended audition for their NBA futures, no one has been more intriguing than the 20-year-old Wroten.
Sure, Michael Carter-Williams may be on his way to proving that he could have been a steal (pun intended) with the 11th pick of the draft, but Wroten was a relative unknown when picked up in an offseason trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
More is now known, but there are still plenty of questions, along with hype, around the 6-6 combo guard and University of Washington product who was taken 25th in last year's draft. For the season, he is averaging 13.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 25.5 minutes a game. He has drawn the most attention in the six games he has started for injured Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams missed four games earlier this year with a strained foot and has been absent from the last two with a skin infection in his knee. In MCW's place, Wroten has averaged 19.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4 rebounds. Knowing that he is going to see the bulk of the minutes at the point without MCW in the lineup seems to bring extra energy from Wroten. Obviously the coaches would like to see the same energy level whether he is playing 30 minutes or 3.
"I think part of my challenge is going to be identifying if Tony can play with Michael going forward," coach Brett Brown said. "Can [Wroten] play some two guard? Michael is the point guard, can Tony play some off-guard because if you're giving Michael 34 or some minutes, well that leaves 14 and I think Tony has shown that he's capable of playing more if he's playing at a rate that we deem is helping the team. Like all young players they'll go up and down. Tony was down the [Orlando] game and Michael was rolling and that's just how it played out."
In that double-overtime victory for the Sixers, Carter-Williams collected his first career triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He also logged almost 47 of the 58 minutes, meaning Wroten corraled only a little more than 13 minutes. During that time he was a minus-13, turned the ball over three times and took just two shots. As a starter, Wroten averages close to 19 shot attempts.
Quite simply, it sometimes seems he is more interested in playing as a starter than as a role player. That's not good for him or the team right now as Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie are looking more to the future. With Carter-Williams here, Wroten is not going to be the starter. Realizing that now would probably be really helpful to him and the team.
"As a starter I have to set the tempo, and when you're coming off the bench you rely on the starters to set the tempo," Wroten said. "When I'm starting I just figure I have to be aggressive."
His coaches are looking for him to play the same way no matter where he begins the game.
After spending parts of the past 3 days in the hospital for a skin infection in his knee, the team had no update on Michael Carter-Williams yesterday. Coach Brett Brown told reporters on Saturday that the injury wasn't too big of a deal. It is unknown whether the rookie will suit up tonight when the Sixers host the Los Angeles Clippers . . . The Sixers will play in Minnesota on Wednesday and in Toronto on Friday. The expected high temperature in Minneapolis on Wednesday is minus-1.