The Sixers Got Point Guard Tony Wroten for Nothing And That's a Cool Thing

The Sixers Got Point Guard Tony Wroten for Nothing And That's a Cool Thing

With Michael Carter-Williams the first and only entry on the Sixers' current depth chart at point guard--seriously, check it out--it was highly probable that the Sixers were gonna pick up another guy to play the one before off-season's end. You figured it would probably be an experienced journeyman type, like an Earl Watson or Jamaal Tinsley, someone who can run the offense competently while MCW rests and pick up a spare start or two if necessary, and more importantly, teach him some of the finer points of the position and help them out with general veteran know-how.
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Nope. The Sixers got their man for the backup point today, and it's a raw, talented, athletic young guy who can't shoot. (Yes, just like our starter.) Sam Hinkie traded a future second-rounder today--said to be top 50 protected, which essentially means it'll never materialize--for Memphis Grizzlies benchwarmer Tony Wroten, a second-year player out of Washington, a player I've long coveted for reasons I can't possibly justify numerically.

Wroten's stats last year, after being taken by Memphis in the first round with the 25th pick, were thoroughly unimpressive: 2.6 points and 1.2 assists a game on 39% shooting in 272 total minutes. But the dude's only gonna be 20 years old at the start of the season--he was born a week after the first Tool album came out, come on--and he's got length and athleticism to spare, as a 6'6", 205 pound point guard as well as impressive court vision, albeit paired with some pretty poor decision-making. Coming into the NBA, he drew some comparisons to Rajon Rondo, except he's a lot bigger (and for the moment at least, a much less effective playmaker). Here's some of the spare footage out there of Tony doing work in the NBA:



If the Sixers are looking to build around youth, size and athleticism, like they appear to have been with their two first-round picks in last year's draft, Wroten seems to fit right into that, and his upside remains sizable for a guy with basically no NBA track record. And for what it's worth, Wroten was far more productive in his 11-game stint with the Grizz' D-League affiliate, averaging about 17 and four a game in just 27 minutes per contest. Here's some footage of him last year with the Reno Big Horns.

So how were we able to get Wroten so cheap? Well, the Grizzlies had become a little disenchanted with Tony's play over the course of last season, and through to this year's Summer League, where he had a fairly poor showing in Vegas. As a contending team who signed two other backup point guards this off-season (Nick Calathes and Josh Akogon) with more experience than Wroten, it makes sense that it would be hard for Wroten to get the PT necessary to grow. Still, the fact that they gave him up essentially for nothing but cap space--as the Rockets did when they jettisoned Royce White to us--has to give you at least a little bit of pause, make you think that maybe there's a reason they had such little belief in this guy.

Still, as just about everyone will be quick to point out regarding this move (and every other Sixers move from this off-season), there's really no risk to it at all. If Wroten flops with the Sixers and doesn't seem like he's going to get any better, then it's no skin off our backs, as we didn't give up anything to get him, and we aren't really trying to win games right now anyway. In the meantime, Sixers geeks like myself will get another shiny new toy whose progress we can obsess over to distract us from all the 110-82 blowouts the team finds itself in. Once again, everybody wins.

It will be interesting to see how the Sixers do decide to use Wroten, in any event--if they keep him in the backup point guard role to trade off with MCW, or if Brett Brown actually dares attempt to play Wroten and Carter-Williams in the same back court, which--especially assuming Evan Turner joins along side at the three--might result in the Sixers becoming the most miserable-shooting team in NBA history, a team without a single player you have to guard outside of 12 feet. (Except maybe Spencer Hawes.) He'll get plenty of time and opportunity to find his role on this crappy young team, however, so good for Tony.

Life is full of possibilities. What a great off-season.

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers – just three wins in their last 14 games – there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory, five-day “bye” week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michael Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do -- to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Stark break.
 
Three of these games are against Metro Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild card that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... Guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kinda scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation – only Colorado [100 GA] has allowed more. Their 3.13 goals against is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those number improve significantly, they won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently, good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game-to-game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60-minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

VOORHEES, N.J. — When we last left the Flyers on Sunday evening, they were picking up pieces of themselves all over the ice at the Verizon Center after a 5-0 beatdown by the Washington Capitals.

They have had to stew over that defeat all through their five-day NHL mandated bye week, which ended Friday afternoon when they reported to Skate Zone for a rare 4 p.m. practice.

They’ll host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

“You go into the break thinking about [hockey], but the whole point of it is to refresh mentally,” said Wayne Simmonds, who got engaged. “I didn’t drive myself crazy over it. This a little stretch here before the final playoff drive.”

When Claude Giroux became engaged in late November, the Flyers won eight straight as part of their 10-game streak.

“So to replicate that, we need everyone in here to get engaged,” Simmonds said. “We've got a lot of work to do. We know that. We got off to a good start compared to the past and then we faltered.

“We know we've got to be better. We all have to be accountable to each other. We’re not starting from scratch, but we need a new perspective here. Come out of the gate and do it the right way, again.”

A lot has happened since the loss in Washington. The Flyers remain fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but the layoff has seen them plummet to ninth overall in the Eastern Conference.

None of that, however, is as important as this: the Flyers no longer hold the second wild card. Toronto has it now with the same number of points as the Flyers — 50.

Difference is, the Maple Leafs also have two games in hand on Dave Hakstol’s club. Worse, the Carolina Hurricanes are snapping at the Flyers' skates with 49 points and they have three games in hand.

All of this is entirely the Flyers' fault as they’ve gone 3-8-3 since their 10-game win streak ended.

Yet they remain in striking distance of the wild card, although they are 11 points out of third, which is an automatic playoff spot.

They are fortunate they’re not farther behind in the wild-card standings.

“For sure, over those days there ... our division did lose a little bit,” Brayden Schenn said. “It’s going to happen. But at the end of the day, if we don’t win hockey games, it’s not going to matter what the other team will do.”

After Saturday’s game against the Devils, the Flyers head to Brooklyn for a Sunday night encounter with the Islanders. Sit five days, then play a back-to-back. Ah, the joys of the NHL schedule this season.

“We know we lost all that ground we gained with the 10-game winning streak,” said Jakub Voracek, who shaved off the beard he’s had for a year and a half during the break. “We are right there in a playoff spot. Now we keep pushing.

“We have 36 games left. We go game by game. I don’t remember how many points out we were last year with the playoffs, but we’re in a better position now.”

Last year after 46 games, the Flyers had 48 points, but were seven points out of a wild-card playoff spot. They have two more points now but are in better wild-card shape.

They know they have to get themselves going quickly but the harsh reality is, they seldom play well coming out of a four or five-day break.

Most of the players went away during the break and didn’t think about hockey. They said they wanted to come back refreshed with a new attitude and clean slate. It starts Saturday.

“We have to stop overthinking things,” Voracek said. “When we were winning, we just kept going. When you are losing, you begin to overthink things.

“You’re a half step slower thinking whether you should go or not. That’s our problem. We have to refocus. Everyone is excited to be back. Get back to work. Push this team to the playoffs.”