Tony Wroten has had the opportunity to dominate the ball at Washington this season, but needs to add a lot more polish to fulfill his NBA destiny. Jonathan Tjarks assesses Wroten and the other NBA prospects wearing Huskies uniforms this season.
In many ways, the point guard is the quarterback of the basketball team, responsible for making the right decisions distributing the ball. And over the last generation, as the country's best athletes have migrated to those two positions, their responsibilities have grown.
PGs who can score and QBs who can run have to be able to call their own number without short-changing their teammates.
When Vince Young took over at Texas, the production of Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson, two WRs who became high NFL draft picks, slipped. Similarly, Washington PG Tony Wroten Jr. is still figuring out how to take advantage of his offensive gifts while fully utilizing Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox, two future first-round draft picks on the wings.
Wroten, a powerful 6'5 guard with a 6'8 wingspan and excellent ball-handling skills, could score at will in high school and AAU ball. But for the first time in his life, he's no longer the most dangerous player on the floor.
He's the Huskies' leading scorer at 16.5 points a game on 46.5 percent shooting, but Ross, a better athlete and shooter, is right behind him at 15.6 points on 45.7 percent shooting. And while Ross and Wilcox will move the ball around the perimeter before trying to initiate offense, the ball has the tendency to stick in Wroten's hands.
As a result, both players can disappear for long stretches of games. Washington's dramatic 71-69 win over UCLA on Feb. 2 is a perfect example of this problem. Ross, after barely touching the ball while Wroten went 4-11 and turned the ball over five times, took over when Wroten got into foul trouble, scoring 10 of the Huskies final 12 points to finish with 22 on 9-13 shooting.
Washington's offense has so many weapons that it would be hard for any PG to keep everyone happy, much less someone with a score-first mentality like Wroten. There's Wilcox, one of the country's most dangerous shooters, Abdul Gaddy, a 6'3 PG who was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, Darnell Gant, a 6'8 shooter and Aziz N'Diaye, an extremely raw 7'0 center with a slowly developing post game.
Nor was there much of a pecking order as the season began. The Huskies lost their top three scorers from last year: Isaiah Thomas, now with the Sacramento Kings, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, older brother of Philadelphia 76ers PG Jrue Holiday.
The result has been an uneasy transition process. Washington, one of the most talented teams in the country, has stumbled out to a 19-8 record, with the low-light coming in a 92-73 home loss to South Dakota State in December.
However, Wroten, after playing 27 games for coach Lorenzo Romar, is a more polished player than he was at the beginning of the season. He still has the occasional stinker, like his six-turnover game against Oregon on Feb. 9, but he's getting better at knowing when to pick his spots offensively.
The Huskies would probably have a better record with Gaddy at the point, but Romar chose to ride out the growing pains of his tremendously talented freshman.
That's why, as March nears, Washington is extremely intriguing. They have the talent to beat anybody, but if not utilized properly, they can lose to anyone, too.
6'7 sophomore shooting guard
- Shot-creation: A gifted scorer with an NBA-caliber step-back jumper and range out to the three-point line (shooting 35.8 percent) to go with excellent ball-handling skills and phenomenal athleticism. Averaging 15.7 points but can get 25+ on any given night.
- Defense: Like most young scorers, defensive effort can be inconsistent, but projects as an excellent defender at all three perimeter positions due to quickness and athleticism at 6'7+. Averaging 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks a game as a sophomore.
- Outside shot: Great shooter with a quick release but can fall in love with the jumper instead of attacking the basket and getting higher-percentage shots.
- Passing: Hard to accurately gauge ability to create shots for teammates with Wroten dominating the ball. Doesn't seem inclined to press the action offensively, which is a good sign. Averaging 1.5 assists and 2.0 turnovers a game this season.
- Rebounding: Elite athlete who crashes the boards at both ends of the floor. Averaging 6.8 rebounds a game, an extremely impressive number for a shooting guard.
- Best case: Five-tool 6'6+ shooting guard with dunk-contest caliber athleticism: Vince Carter.
- Worst case: Explosive perimeter scorer who doesn't always impact game without the ball: J.R. Smith.
6'5 shooting guard
- Shot creation: Pure shooter more comfortable finishing than creating his own shot, has suffered from Wroten's ball-dominant style. Averaging 13.7 points a game in 28 minutes a game after a limited role as a freshman. Next step is increasing offensive efficiency from the field (42 percent).
- Defense: While not as explosive as Ross and Wroten, a good athlete at 6'5+ with above-average quickness who projects as a solid two-way shooting guard at the next level. Averaging 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks a game as a sophomore.
- Outside shot: Has one of the most beautiful shots in the country. Doesn't need much space to get off extremely quick and compact release. Career 40.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc who could win a Three-Point Shootout one day.
- Passing: Not a great ball-handler, but is a willing passer who doesn't force shots. Averaging 1.2 assists and 1.3 turnovers a game this year.
- Rebounding: Could use extra weight on 185-pound frame, but length and athleticism allow him to average 3.3 rebounds a game.
- Best case: Deadly 6'5+ shooter who can contribute on both sides of the ball -- Rip Hamilton.
- Worst case: Carves out 10-year NBA career due to combination of long-distance shooting and defensive ability -- J.J. Redick.
6'8 senior power forward
- Shot creation: Role player who rarely looks for own shot and knows how to play off offensive stars after four years in Seattle. Averaging 7.2 points a game on 45.6 percent shooting as a senior.
- Defense: At 6'8 230, may be a "3.5": too slow to defend NBA small forwards and too short to defend NBA power forwards. However, he is a smart, hard-working player who knows how to overcome physical limitations.
- Outside shot: Has a good-looking perimeter jumper, with career averages of 35.5 percent from three and 72 percent from the free throw line. Ability to stick at next level will depend on being a consistent long-range shooter.
- Passing: Not asked to make decisions with ball in his hands and averages only 0.7 assists and 0.8 turnovers a game this year.
- Rebounding: Solid rebounder with decent athleticism who is unafraid to mix it up inside, averaging 4.6 rebounds in 22.7 minutes a game this season.
- Best case: Finds spot in an NBA rotation as an undersized "stretch 4" -- Anthony Tolliver.
- Worst case: Collegiate role player whose lack of a defensive position sends him overseas -- James Gist.
Tony Wroten Jr.: 6'5 guard with excellent vision and ball-handling ability, but is averaging 3.8 assists and 3.9 turnovers a game as a freshman and needs to significantly improve decision-making ability. Biggest red flag for next level is lack of a three-point shot (shooting 18.8 percent from long-range). Inability to space the floor will prevent Wroten from being an effective NBA role player; like Tyreke Evans, has to dominate the ball to be effective.
Aziz N'Diaye: Athletic 7'0 junior center from Senegal. Averaging 8.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in only 22 minutes and has shown desire to improve as well as a high motor in first two years in Seattle.
Abdul Gaddy: 6'3 junior guard who is still only 20 years old. Hasn't been able to fulfill recruiting pedigree in first three years due to age, injuries and extremely talented teammates who prevent him from dominating the ball. Has a good feel for the game but isn't a great athlete, so will need to refine every aspect of his game next year, from long-range shooting (31.7 percent from beyond the arc this season) to scoring off the bounce (39.9 percent from the field) and running point (4.7 assists to 2.0 turnovers), to be an NBA-caliber player.
Shawn Kemp Jr.: Doesn't have father's unreal athleticism, but can play above the rim at 6'9 and 265 pounds. Has not gotten much playing time as a freshman, but combination of size and athleticism is worth keeping an eye on.