Brown needs Wroten to learn to play off-ball

Brown needs Wroten to learn to play off-ball
December 16, 2013, 11:00 am
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Tony Wroten is averaging 18.5 points starting in place of Michael Carter-Williams, but Sixers coach Brett Brown will need Wroten to be more productive off the ball when Carter-Williams returns. (USA Today Images)

There was nothing to praise after Saturday night’s 34-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Michael Carter-Williams' absence over the last six games has hurt the Sixers at both ends of the floor. But -- big picture -- MCW's inability to play has contributed to the continued emergence of point guard Tony Wroten.

Over the last six games, the crafty left-hander is averaging 18.5 points and shooting 44 percent. And in his last two games, Wroten has made 7 of 12 three-point attempts -- quite a feat considering prior he was shooting 19 percent from behind the arc.

“The thing I get most pleased with is that we are trying to work on his shooting,” Brett Brown said. “To come in and shoot 18-20 percent from three and 51 from the line is OK provided he does what we are asking him to do with his form. That is the deal. Otherwise, there is no deal, and he is hurting the team.”

No one would argue that Wroten can't get to the rim at will, but his shooting form has flaws, which is why he's shot such a poor percentage from both the foul line (56.5 percent) as well as the perimeter (25.3 percent).

Brown is a strong believer that players can be made into better shooters. He saw it happen repeatedly during his time in San Antonio. But it takes instruction and repetition to develop good form.

“He has bought in and he is trying to get his form right and hold his follow through, stay in the shot, all those things that matter," Brown said referring to Wroten. "That is the partnership. That is the arrangement.”

As for how the second-year guard would describe the process himself:

“Just work," Wroten said. "I have been working hard with the coaches every day and it is starting to pay off. I am following through, staying with it, just being more focused.”

The work has reaped rewards as of late, so hopefully that positive experience will have Wroten accept any new challenges from his coach with the same vigor. Brown would like to be able to play Wroten at both the one and the two, but that hasn't worked out as well as Brown would like on the occasions that Wroten has slid over to shooting guard.

“There are times when he is not as interested as I wished he would be on ball or off when he is not in the play,” Brown said. “So you say, 'Hey, here is the ball, you are the starting point guard, and here’s 30 something minutes. [Then] he’s engaged. He’s in the game.”

“There are times when he is not on the ball offensively or defensively, which he wouldn’t be, given that Michael is the point guard. At times there are lapses. This conversation we are having I have had candidly with him and Michael. 'How do you two coexist? You tell me. You two figure it out.'”

Carter-Williams is still a little ways away from returning to practice and eventually the starting lineup, so Wroten will stay the starting point guard for now.

But, eventually, if he wants 30 minutes a game, he will have to learn to play without the ball in his hands. If he can do that, Brown will have quite a backcourt duo.

“Because if they can coexist, they can do some different things,” Brown said with enthusiasm. “Michael being a strong pick-and roll-player with his strong hand and Tony being a strong pick-and-roll player with his left hand. You can play them side by side on each side of the floor, and you have weapons going on two sides of the gym."

Figuring out how to make that work, Brown said, "is the challenge I have and they have."