The Las Vegas Summer League came to a close yesterday and Grizzlies fans have to feel good about the performances of the two players who really mattered for their squad, rookie guard Tony Wroten Jr. and second-year guard Josh Selby.
A few notes on each player:
Josh Selby: With the Grizzlies still apparently in the market for a three-point shooting guard, Selby did all he could to suggest he can help fill that role next season, hitting an outrageous 25-42 from three-point range in five games. He's not going to shoot like that in the regular season, obviously, and the shots might not be as easy to get, but this shooting display is certainly promising, and should give Selby a boost of confidence heading into an important training camp.
While Selby has certainly boosted his odds of becoming viable bench scorer in the real league, I would be higher on him coming out of Vegas if he had been a little better inside the arc. Selby was a so-so 12-28 on two-point attempts in Vegas. He hit a couple of really nice floaters, which was encouraging, and had a couple of mid-range shots off the dribble. But he wasn't consistently dynamic with the ball and didn't get to the rim effectively. Selby had some good assist games, but his assists tended to be off pretty basic passes, often to set up jumpers.
Selby seems to be settling into his potential role as an undersized, instant-offense bench scorer, in the Jason Terry mold. For him to really be effective in that role at the NBA level, he's going to have to show that his three-point explosion in Vegas wasn't just a random hot streak but something relatively repeatable.
The book on Wroten coming in was that he's got a lot of work to do on his shot and that he would be turnover prone, and both of those things are clearly going to be problems. Wroten shot 3-15 from three-point range (and 1-12 over his final four games), while registering 14 turnovers to his 20 assists.
But, long-term, I'm not that concerned about either of these things. Rookie point guards almost always have turnover problems, especially ones with experience as limited as Wroten's, who played just one season in college. But most of them — and especially the good ones — see their turnover rates decline in their second season. These are normal growing pains, and, with Wroten, his turnover problems will be partly connected to his dynamism as a playmaker. And that's a trade-off the team should be willing to have patience with in such a young, talented player.
As for his shooting, it needs to get better, and I'm sure it will, though how much and how soon is impossible to say. But history suggests that if you're a point guard with other skills — if you can make great passes, if you can get to the rim, if you can defend — you get by without a good outside shot. See Rajon Rondo. See Young Jason Kidd. See Young Tony Parker. See Young Russell Westbrook. See Andre Miller. There's a long list. And Wroten can do all of those other things.
While he struggled from long range, Wroten shot a more respectable 23-50 from inside the arc, and got to the rim with regularity. As playmaker, I was struck by the quality of Wroten's assists, which broke down like this:
Assists for Dunks: 9
Assists for Threes: 7
Assists for Layups: 2
Assists for Mid-Range Jumpers: 2
That's right — nine of Wroten's 20 summer-league assists set up dunks: He connected on fullcourt bounce passes in transition. He found open cutters off high pick-and-roll sets. He slashed into the paint, drew the defense, and dropped off passes to teammates for easy finishes. And he found open shooters along the three-point line. Ninety percent of his assists for dunks, layups, or three-pointers? That's crazy.
And while he has a penchant to gamble now, Wroten's combination of size, athleticism, and demeanor suggests he can be a quality defensive player at both guard spots.
Wroten is still a project and, given the Grizzlies depth in the backcourt, this could be something of a red shirt/developmental season for him. (If he's not playing, I would endorse significant D League time for Wroten.) But I implore the Grizzlies to take Wroten's development very seriously and to have patience with him, even though I'm pretty sure he was far from a consensus pick on draft night. Wroten is raw, but he might be the most talented guard on the roster. He can be an extremely important player for the Grizzlies in the coming years.