According to his Mock Draft 2.0, Chad Ford has the freshman from Washington, Tony Wroten Jr, being selected 23rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks. In his first Mock Draft, he had the Hawks taking him at pick 19. Note: These links are ESPN Insider restricted.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard of Tony Wroten Jr.
Like any other random week night I was prowling college basketball recruiting message boards, trying to read up on the next big thing. Threads filled with the likes of Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis flooded the system, as did some other typical, fannish message board junk. One thread I clicked on sent me to a link of some highlights of a kid from Seattle named Tony Wroten Jr. I watched, perplexed and fascinated as my jaw dropped with every no-look pass and gravity defying dunk. Again, this is about a minute long clip of maybe 15 plays from AAU basketball– stuff to be taken with a complete grain of salt, and that’s how I took it. The scuttlebutt was that he wanted to go to Kentucky, but they’d already made Marquis Teague their guy. So he ended up staying home at Washington.
To preface this, I was and am a huge Jeff Teague supporter, especially when it comes to playing over Mike Bibby or Kirk Hinrich. Clearly both Woodson and Drew have had a short leash with Teague, and that has probably held him back a bit, but if Tony Wroten fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the upcoming draft, they should pounce on the opportunity to snag a truly, potential-filled game breaking point guard.
Thankfully, my knowledge of Wroten’s game doesn’t completely rest on a minute of AAU highlights… that would be awful in all sorts of ways. I watched a few of his games at Washington, not all of them, but two or three and saw glimpses of what he so often dominated high schoolers with: ridiculous athleticism, an uncanny ability to see the floor, and a slick knack for getting the ball into tight spots, and making it look 50 times cooler than it needs to. He’s quick, has a tight handle, can jump through the roof, and has that chip-on-his-shoulder-attitude that can either be a detriment or a spark for a team. That’ the risk: attitude coupled with a rusty jump shot and a tendency to force those flashy moves. No one in the NBA wants a diva on their team, and Wroten feels like Brandon Jennings 2.0, except with less shooting and more swaggered passing.
Still, this a guy that could put butts in the seats. Him and Josh Smith on a break would be all sorts of electrifying, bringing Philips Arena’s nickname to real life.
The Hawks have made a point of being terrible on draft night. Our last good selection was Al Horford, and to be honest, other than Josh Smith thats about the only one of the decade unless Teague pans out. So in a deeper than usual draft, Chad Ford believes a guy who has Gary Payton like potential could fall into the late teens or early twenties based on some shaky aspects of his game that could make him anywhere between a bust or a superstar. How often does true super star potential fall that late in the draft? Some teams are scared to take this risk, and for the first time in a while, I encourage the Hawks to make the ballsy pick, and it wouldn’t be ballsy at all if he dropped into our laps that late.
Our player development scares me– I think we could turn him into what he shouldn’t be. Our head coach’s random power trips with Teague and Zaza scare me as well– we don’t want locker room problems with a rookie who’s head is bigger than his game. Chemistry is a huge part of NBA basketball, just look at the Kings, and while Wroten has potential to threaten that, he also has the potential to be a downright dominant NBA player. Of course, there’s the flip side, and that’s what gives me reservations.
Does it matter, though? If the Hawks pass on him and he goes on to be a top-5 point guard in the league eight years from now, how stupid will we feel? It’s Chris Paul all over again, but this time we’re picking in the twenties. I don’t know if he’ll be available when our number is called. I don’t know if we’ll trade up and get an even better pick. I don’t know if Chad Ford has a really accurate reading for where Wroten will land. I do know that the potential reward far outweighs the risk.
Here’s the first footage I ever saw of Tony Wroten Jr.
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