Memphis insists choice will fit
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 7:00 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — The Grizzlies had only one shot in Thursday’s NBA draft and say they got the player they wanted.
Memphis was looking to fill a void at backup point guard and selected 6-foot-6 Tony Wroten from Washington. He has a reputation of being a passer and facilitator and appears to have the raw skills necessary to back up Memphis starter Mike Conley.
But he will need to improve his shooting. Wroten shot 44.3 percent from the field and only 16.1 percent beyond the arc.
Memphis general manager Chris Wallace said he didn’t consider Wroten either a point guard or shooting guard, classifying him simply as “a guard.”
“It was a best available, talent-upside pick,” Wallace said. “He probably doesn’t address a specific need. He’s not a shooter. He may become a point guard in time. Some critics say he’s not one now, but he does have ballhandling skills. I believe the draft is about adding talent to your team.”
Wroten averaged 16 points a game and 3.86 assists during his only season for the Huskies, earning him All-Pac 12 honors and was named Pac-12 freshman of the year. He scored at least 20 points in 12 games. Wallace said Wroten will need to combine his passing skills with a reduction in turnovers.
The Grizzlies entered the draft with only the first round pick. Wallace said the team tried to add an early second round pick in a trade, but was unsuccessful.
“We started chasing some players until it wasn’t worth doing after a while,” Wallace said, adding: “We couldn’t get a dance partner.”
There apparently was a lot of interest from Wroten and supporters for him to land in Memphis. Wallace said former Washington and Portland Trail Blazer Brandon Roy, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar and “everybody but Ichiro and Pete Carroll” from the Washington area called in support of Wroten.
“It was crazy. I was speechless,” Wroten said of learning about the pick. “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but being a Memphis Grizzly was a dream come true, so I just broke down.”
Wroten, who has the quickness and talent to get to the rim, can help a shortcoming exposed during last season’s playoffs. The lack of an effective second point guard to battle Chris Paul contributed to the Grizzlies losing the seven-game first-round playoff series to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Grizzlies tried rookies Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby backing up Conley this season. Conley averaged more than 35 minutes a game in the regular season, testament to coach Lionel Hollins’ lack of confidence in the young reserves.
Wroten drew interest from Memphis after he worked out for the team. While there were initial shortcomings in defense and shooting, he seemed to recover in time to make plays.
The draft played out in such a way that Memphis seemed destined to look at the point guard need. Shooters like John Jenkins of Vanderbilt and Evan Fournier from France were taken in picks before Memphis.
There were several guards available when Memphis was on the clock, such as Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague of Kentucky and swingman Will Barton of Memphis.
Memphis’ strength is in the frontcourt with All-Star center Marc Gasol and forwards Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay.
Published in The Messenger 6.29.12