Monday, July 15, 2013

Griz Summer League Weekend: Grades Incomplete

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Tony Wroten Jr. has gotten off to a rough start at the Las Vegas Summer League.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Tony Wroten Jr. has gotten off to a rough start at the Las Vegas Summer League.
A surprisingly anticipated back-to-back pair of Grizzlies games at the Las Vegas Summer League last weekend turned out to be something of a dud, with two of the three players on the summer roster that are basically guaranteed to be on the regular-season roster — Jon Leuer and Jamaal Franklin — both sitting out with sprained ankles.

That left only rising second-year point guard Tony Wroten, destined-for-a-return-to-Europe late-second-round rookie Janis Timma, non-guaranteed incumbents Donte Greene and Willie Reed, and a handful of non-roster hopefuls to see.

Across two losses featuring miserable shooting, here are a few takeaways:

Tony Wroten: Wroten's stat line across two games is u-g-l-y: 24 points on 5-23 shooting, with more turnovers (7) than assists (6). This is discouraging considering Wroten faired pretty well in his Summer League debut last year, but it's slightly less depressing than it seems.

It's very much an open question whether Wroten's enticing blend of size and skill suggests true NBA potential or merely “Strotential.” But, for me, two games in Vegas didn't really move the needle much on that uncertainty, for better or worse. We still know what we knew: Wroten is a big, athletic point guard who is aggressive and can get into the lane and to the line (25 free-throw attempts over two games, that's good), but has to get better from the line (56%, that's not) to take advantage of this attribute. He's a good passer, but is playing without shooters or finishers in Vegas so far. He can't shoot (0-7 from three) and needs to develop more consistency and modulate his tendency to go for the highlight play. Can he put his size and athleticism to the service of sound NBA defense?

Hopefully Wroten will settle down and show better as summer league progresses, but I'm especially interested to see him with the real team, where his passes will find better targets and having other viable scorers on the floor will hopefully make him more judicious in calling his own number. New coach Dave Joerger has talked about picking up the pace and trying to generate more lay-ups and free throws (including in this in-game interview from last night). That's Wroten's game. Whether he can translate it to the NBA level remains a mystery for the moment.

Janis Timma — With Franklin out and the Grizzlies wanting a good look at Donte Green, Timma has been starting at the two guard and if these games have established anything, it's that that's not his position. Timma's not quick enough for the two, on either end of the floor. Can he connect often enough as a spot-up shooter to have a future as a three? Not in Vegas so far, where he's been a cringe-worthy 1-11 from three.

Timma seems to be an energetic, crafty player. He pushes the ball off defensive rebounds, hustles back and asserts himself defensively. He's a willing passer. He rebounds out of his area. But given his athleticism, he's going to have to be a meaningful shooter to make it in the NBA. To presumably no one's surprise, he doesn't seem ready for that yet. He's likely to return to Europe this coming season.

Donte Greene: Already a longshot to make the regular season roster, Greene's performance over the weekend was disastrous: 1-14 shooting, including 0-5 from three. Greene needs to shoot well from the perimeter to have a chance at getting back to the NBA, because he struggles to create offense even against summer league defenders.

Willie Reed: Reed is a live body who can make plays around the rim but lacks skill. If the Grizzlies wanted a cheap sixth big on the roster, he might get a longer look in camp, but I'm guessing there are better unsigned options out there. I think his odds are better than Greene's, but not much better.

Among the free agents on the team, the only one to really stand out so far is former Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, who has been the team's most productive player: Through two games, Cooley has 28 points on 11-20 shooting and 16 rebounds. He's also shot 2-5 from three-point range. Cooley has pick-and-pop potential and is a physical player. If he were a couple of inches taller he'd be an interesting prospect, but as is he's undersized for an NBA center and lacks the athleticism to make up for it. Still, Cooley looks like someone worth a training camp invite, at the least.

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