The blogosphere is all ablaze with rumors that not only has Tony Wroten already decided that he is going pro, but that he is actively interviewing potential agents. While the mock draft boards consistently have Wroten ranked in the mid-20’s potential draft picks, as long as he gets drafted in that 1st round he will get the three year guaranteed contract that will still pay him close to $1 million per year.
Tony Wroten’s strengths and weaknesses have been discussed ad naseum on this site and others, so I do not want to rehash them here. But, there seems to be a general consensus among fans and neutral observers that it would be best for Wroten’s game to return to college for at least one more season. That being said, if you were essentially offered $3 million whether you ever play in an NBA game or not, what decision would you make?
All it takes is one team to fall in love with his potential (Atlanta Hawks?) to make him a millionaire. But, when you are projected in the mid-20’s, there is always the risk of you slipping into the 2nd round and not having anything guaranteed. We’ve certainly seen these stories before of the player who leaves early only to find themselves slip way further than they or anyone expected and then toil for years in Bismark or Erie hoping for their chance to make it to “The League” or sit on the bench unused until their contracts expire.
For every story of an Isaiah Thomas slipping to #60 and then emerging as a Rookie of the Year candidate, there is a sure fire 1st rounder like Tyler Honeycutt who slipped into the 2nd round, was sent for some time to play for the Reno Bighorns, and since his return has only played a total of 27 minutes and scored 8 points so far this season (in NBA 51 games).
So, for Tony Wroten, he has to think about what all the possibilities are. But, the thing about major college basketball players is that they never lack for confidence. And, that sure is the case for Tony Wroten. Sure, his lack of an outside shot, his poor free throw shooting, his sometimes suspect decision making, lack of intensity on defense, and his seeming inability to drive right are all areas that need to be worked on. But, if someone said to you, we’re sending you down to play in Sioux Falls or Des Moines to work on that in the D-league, but you’ll still get your $1 million, what decision would you make?
But, whatever decision Tony Wroten decides to make for his lifestyle and family, it is time for Husky fans to start imagining a team without him and Terrance Ross and see whether losing Tony Wroten might actually be a good thing for the program or would be detrimental. One observation most Husky fans would agree with is that the team underachieved and mostly it was due to issues of chemistry and immaturity. The remaining players will be a year older and all those freshmen will have had a year in the system to learn the defensive schemes and improve their bodies and skill sets. But, what about team chemistry?
Losing Terrance Ross’ incredible talent will hurt. But, he plays a position that the Huskies are relatively deep at. They have C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs returning. While they may not have quite the athleticism and slasher’s mentality that Ross has, they are certainly quite capable of playing the 2-spot very well. Whether they have the skills to move over to the 3 remains to be seen. But, the Huskies have a 6’10” player in Jernard Jarreau who has been described as a huge small forward with a nice outside shot. His ability to play inside-and-out might also help mitigate the loss of Ross at the 3. It would be a different style, but it might actually work better in Romar’s system.
But, in terms of Wroten, he was a “point guard” who often took more of the role of the 2. Abdul Gaddy played the most minutes of any players for the Huskies this season. When Gaddy was on the floor, Wroten did not have to handle the ball as much and was more free to be a slasher, rather than a distributor and court general. The Huskies have another players with a solid set of skills coming in with RS freshman Andrew Andrews. Andrews is described as a scoring point guard who can fill it up, but also handle the ball distribution needs when necessary. So many people were hyping up Andrews when he signed with the Huskies, but then he decided to redshirt. When that was announced, my immediate thought was this:
Andrews was told by Romar or others that Wroten was a one-year player and that by redshirting he’d slide right into that role and those minutes the next year
Well, it’s starting to look like that may be exactly what will happen. Even without any known recruits coming in, the Huskies appear to have the personnel to weather this storm. Programs lose top talent every year to graduation or early entry to the NBA draft. The successful programs are the ones that have enough talent coming in as new recruits or redshirts, and see enough improvement in the offseason by the returning players to offset that loss.
The last question, which may be the hardest to answer, is how the chemistry of the team will change. There were whispers around the program that the younger players and older players did not mesh very well. Words like “immaturity” were bandied about, specifically by Gant and Romar. Some people think that Wroten, despite his obvious skills, was too much of a “me-first” player and that hurt the team’s cohesiveness on and off the floor. While Wroten’s scoring certainly lead to some victories this year, many will also argue that his selfishness and lack of defense cost the teams some wins. Will his departure improve the team chemistry?
Will the disappointment of missing out on the NCAA tournament galvanize the team next year to play more cohesively, master Romar’s defensive schemes, improve their offensive decision-making, and improve their free throw shooting? Gaddy will be a senior next year. This is his last shot. Aziz N’Diaye will be a senior. Scott Suggs has the chance to become the first Husky basketball player to appear in four NCAA tournaments (something Gant couldn’t achieve this year). C.J. Wilcox will be a 4th year junior. Desmond Simmons will be a 3rd year sophomore. There will certainly be a lot of experienced players on this roster. If they are able to get together as group and focus on the TEAM concept and not worry so much about their NBA draft position or what their stats line will look like in the paper, they have the potential to be quite good.
The thing is, the Huskies need to assume the Pac-12 will be better next year. NIT champions Stanford is returning everyone. Arizona is bringing in another Top 5 recruiting class. UCLA not only has a Top 5 recruiting class, but should have a bit more cohesion with their returning players next year. Colorado is bringing a lot back, as is Washington State. It will take a team effort to win this conference again next year. It’ll also be important to start off strong in the non-conference season with a commitment to defense.
Would the team be better off with Tony Wroten gone? Only time will tell. But, I think there are reasons for optimism.