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by Dan Kelly

As I begin this column we are only days away from the 2012 NBA draft.

97 days, 6 hours, 49 minutes, and 20 seconds to be exact. But who’s counting? (besides Bobcats fans.)

It’s the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, and while all eyes are fixed on articles about Kendall Marshall’s wrist and Snooki’s pregnancy, I am getting sneakily excited about an entirely different tournament.

The NIT.

That’s right, the NIT still exists. It’s coming to MSG this Tuesday and I, for one, will be there. To me there are exactly three reasons why you should be there too: Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten, and $1 beers!

The one-dollar beers are fantasy (it’s actually $9 beer night). But Ross and Wroten are for real. I realize that the Brooklyn Nets are way more than a draft away from immediate relevancy (they are probably Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, and one draft away from immediate relevancy.) But everyone has to start somewhere, and assuming the Nets weren’t serious about starting with Gerald Wallace, they will start with the 16th pick in the 2012 draft. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten are both players who will be available in that area of the draft and will warrant serious consideration in the Nets war room.

Blow by U ... Ross photo courtesy Elaine Thompson AP

Let’s start with Ross. The 6’6’’, 21 year old, sophomore is a silky-smooth perimeter scorer. He was the former high school teammate of Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and it was Ross (not Jones) who was the Oregon state player of the year during their sophomore run to the state title. Ross ran into some transfer eligibility issues, didn’t play his senior year, and arrived at University of Washington way under the radar. As a freshman he showed flashes of brilliance, including his 19 point performance off the bench against North Carolina in last years NCAA tournament. That game, and his summer at the Lebron Skills Camp, earned him a top ten slot in most mock drafts coming into this year. He’s averaging just over 16 points and 6 rebounds a game this year as the small forward on the 24-10 Washington Huskies and his draft stock has seen a slight dip.

His strength is as a shooter. At 6’6’’ with a high release he has nice size for an NBA two guard. He makes threes coming off screens, in transition, and off the dribble. His midrange game is solid now and it’s easy to see it getting better in the NBA. His primary move is a right to left cross over dribble to a pull-up jump shot. It’s hard to defend even when everybody in the gym knows its coming. He also possesses elite level athleticism. He goes up high above the rim for rebounds on both ends and seems to throw down a few alley-oops (usually on passes from Wroten) every game:

If he gets a smaller defender he will go straight to the post and score at will with a number of instinctual type post moves. My favorite thing about Ross’s game, and the thing that makes him unique, is his tough-shot ability. He is one of those guys who isn’t bothered by good defense (think Joe Johnson). He will do his move and get his shot off whether you stay with him or not. And around the basket he can hang in the air, contort his body, and put the perfect amount of english on the ball.

His greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. He relies on his jumper and too often settles for long contested jump shots. That isn’t to say that he won’t make a lot of those shots, because he will. It’s just that with all that bounce and athleticism he should spend more time in the paint (and at the free throw line).  Part of the reason he doesn’t get to the hoop more is his average ball handling. He has a perfectly serviceable handle but he doesn’t look confident in it, especially in traffic.

Does Ross remind me a little of MarShon Brooks?  Yes, I guess he does. A bigger, more athletic, less savvy Marshon Brooks.  But he reminds me a lot more of Paul George and that’s a good thing. He gets compared to Dorrell Wright and Wes Johnson but I think those comparisons sell him short. In the NIT Ross appears to have made a choice to take over. He is a humble guy and all season he has made a choice to let the game come to him and to not force the action (probably to a fault). In the NIT he is averaging over 26 points per game and has been impressively aggressive. Remember he missed his senior year of high school, didn’t play a ton of minutes as a freshman, and is playing his best basketball at the end of the year. I think his stock is going up and that we don’t actually know how high his ceiling is. He isn’t at a position of obvious need for the present version of the Nets.  But, depending on their off season moves, he might become the right guy.

Tony Wroten amazes even himself ... photo Ted Warren AP

Tony Wroten had probably the most catalogued high school career of any West Coast basketball player ever.  He was ranked the #1 player in his class for a number of years before he suffered an ACL tear and Anthony Davis grew 11 feet over night. Tony is very comfortable with the media and the fanfare that comes with major college basketball. In short, he already carries himself like a pro…most of the time. Tony also suffers from an overabundance of confidence that sometimes results in embarrassing turnovers and horrible shots. In other words, he has a lot of swag.  In fact, his swag has swag. He is 18 years old and has been talking about the NBA for 5 years now. There is only one problem: He can’t shoot! He will likely enter the draft after this season without having made 20 outside jump shots. This is really amazing to me. What is more amazing is that he’s going to get away with it. Tony is one of those rare talents who rolls out of bed in the morning and averages 17 points 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Ten years ago he would have stayed in school for three or four years, developed a serviceable shot to go with his passing and uncanny ability to drive by people. He would become a legit top 5 pick and would go on to a successful 12-15 year career with a few All-Star games and maybe even a ring. But today basketball is different and Tony will most likely test the waters, sit on a bench, get rich, not develop, and end up leading Tel Aviv to some kind of trophy in 10 years.

Tony Wroten is a 6’5’’ lefty point guard. And when I say lefty I mean LEFTY. The man does not go right. He has three, maybe four NBA skills: His ability to get to the basket, his vision, his rebounding, and his on ball defense. Actually I think he has a fifth NBA skill which is called swag:

When the shot clock is low and he makes a decision to get to the rim he doesn’t think anybody can stop him. The way that he gets to the rim is the most satisfying thing to me. He does not venture to drive around his defender. He goes right at them and drives through them. This is how he averaged 7.8 free throw attempts per game as a point guard. His vision is Rondo-esque. I don’t mean to say that he is as good a passer as Rondo. But he makes one or two passes every game that make you think: Never in a million years would I have thought to make that pass. Which is exactly what Rondo does. They see the game on a different level. The trouble for Wroten is that he is usually throwing these savant like passes to a seven foot soccer player from Senegal named Aziz N’Diaye.  And when he isn’t throwing them to Aziz he is throwing them to buttoned down Microsoft guys in the third row. In basketball verbiage ‘he has a tendency to try to do too much.’ Which is a gentle way of saying that he makes unfathomably moronic decisions. His offensive rebounding is nothing short of amazing. If he misses a shot around the rim he almost always gets his own rebound. I can’t imagine that this skill will translate to the NBA but for some reason I wouldn’t be surprised. His fourth strength, as an on ball defender, is debatable. Against lesser players he can make life miserable. With his long reach and instinctual anticipation he can be a terror on the ball or in the passing lane. But he takes plays off and he takes too many chances that result in baskets for the bad guys.

His kryptonite is his inability to shoot. College defenses left him alone at the three point line and tried to force him right.  He drove around them anyways, always to the left. In the NBA life will not be so easy and Tony will have to develop a shot. What’s confusing and encouraging is that his mechanics aren’t horrible. They are inconsistent and he appears not to believe in them. But I don’t see any reason why NBA coaching, the extra NBA practice time, and Necessity (the mother of all invention) shouldn’t turn him into an okay shooter.

I have seen him compared to Tyreke Evans which makes sense because they were both awkward shooters in college and they are both bulls going to the hoop. I want to call him Rondo but Wroten does not have Rondo’s alien-like length and brooding brilliance. I think he has a little John Wall in him with his ability to get to the rim and finish. He has some Gary Payton in him with his toughness and his post game. Collectively he is a totally unique player. And  he’s one of those players who makes the game 1000 times more exciting. You never know what he might do: dunk on somebody, throw an alleyoop off the backboard or pull up for a contested 25 foot three super early in the shot clock.

Deron Williams, by all accounts, is as good as gone. Tony Wroten is not the answer at point guard for the Nets next year. But he could be part of the answer. Or a future answer. Whatever the case may be he is certainly worthy of consideration and is even more worthy of convincing you to spend $20 to rent a seat at the Garden this Tuesday ($29 including the beer.)

YOUR TURN!  ARE NBA PROSPECTS ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU TUNE IN TO THE NIT?  SHOULD THE NETS AND KNICKS HAVE THESE GUYS ON THEIR RADARS AS THE DRAFT APPROACHES?

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36 thoughts on “NIT: NBA Gold mine at MSG? …Paying attention Nets? Knicks?

  1. Nice “what to watch for,” Dan — I saw Washington vs Duke earlier in the year at MSG, and while the Huskies were run off the floor early, Wroten and Ross were the only really exciting players on the floor.

    A little out of control and every play must be a highlight with them, but worth watching for those electrifying moments…

  2. Nice article. As a Husky fan, I’d like to see Wroten come back and work on his jumper, but his other skills are too ready. He’s gone. Not much more for Ross to work on except maybe how not to disappear for stretches. Seems to have rectified that in the NIT. Good for him. He’s gone too.

  3. Lord Kelly, well put and fun to read. Always like when a piece comes back around at the end. Nice work.

  4. It has been brought to my attention that Tyreke Evans is right handed. For some reason I have always thought of him as left handed. I think it’s because his shooting stroke is so long and loopy. Lefty shooting form always strikes me as being oddly long and fluid looking. If I’m not making any sense then think about michael redd and derek fisher.

  5. Re: Wall vs Wroten. Wall actually played some in Seattle last summer and went head to head with Wroten. Wroten CRUSHED him.

  6. Great article Dan, knew you’d kill it! Who else do you think could really use Ross?

  7. Portland can really use Terrance Ross to replace another Husky, Brandon Roy. That’s his home and will be awesome to see him lead Portland to respectability… ala Roy, until he had his career ending condition.

  8. As a long-time Husky fan I have observed Tony Wroten to be one of the most electrifying players I’ve ever seen.

    Additionally, he has what Charles Barkley had: a smile that lights up the entire floor. Big personality. Big talent.

    His jump shot will come. As to the rest of the requisite skills, Tony has them in abundance.

  9. Nicely written and very accurate article. Nice to see the East Coast actually does pay attention to the PAC-12.

  10. But Rodney Williams and the Gophers might very well play better than Wroten and co on Tuesday.

  11. love the take on Wroten’s passing ability. You’ve got both these players pegged although one thing missing is that neither has been able to elevate the team to great heights. Winning the NIT is still a disappointment for the level of talent on this UW team

  12. As a Husky season ticket holder, I’m very impressed by your analysis of these guys all the way on the East Coast. Spot on. Well done, sir.

  13. Great analysis and on the money, especially being all the way on the right coast. Basically, if Wroten developed a legitimate jumper he would be unstoppable and all Ross need is that swagger, which he is now showing.

  14. Great article. Extremely well written and largely spot on. A little harsh, but I love it.

    My only quibble is the part about Ross usually throwing down alley-oops from Wroten. Usually that pass comes from Abdul Gaddy. Who? Gaddy is the main point guard for the Huskies. He injured his knee last year, and is just now getting back into form. He will come back for his senior season, and I expect him, along with fellow guard C. J. Wilcox to be in the NBA draft discussion next year. Now, if only the Huskies can develop similar big men…

  15. “Which is a gentle way of saying that he makes unfathomably moronic decisions. ”

    Truer words have never been written.

    As a Husky fans I have had a sore neck all season due to the head-shaking that Wroten has inspired. I love the guy, but he could be so much more if he would stop with the “unfathomably moronic decisions”.

  16. Outstanding piece and incredibly accurate. As a Husky lifer, I’ve seen these guys play at least 20 times this year and Wroten is as frustrating as anyone I’ve ever seen. Husky fans liken him to Nate Robinson… actually, a taller, crappier-shooting Nate Robinson with even more talent but also even more erratic. Like Nate, I’m not sure if he’ll ever be able to function as a pure point guard, but as a combo guard with improved shooting, the sky’s the limit. Ross is an absolute beast when he wants to be.

  17. I have watched almost every game that these 2 have played in since they have arrived in Montlake and you have them pegged to the tee. I would love to see both of them come back for one more season each to see what mosre they could add to their games but I don’t see that happening. That is way too much cash out there for them to be sticking around in college. I think Wroten needs one more year more than Ross, but they definitely would be a special team next year with the addition of these 2. Lets just hope they can keep up the great playing and win the NIT. It is a small consolation prize by not making the big dance but at least they are still playing. GO DAWGS!

  18. Wroten and Wall are alike except for Wroten being bigger, faster, stronger, a better passer, better rebounder and a worse shooter.

  19. Very insightful analysis, especially for someone from the East Coast. I’m a husky fan, have watched every game this year and would tend to agree w/ your analysis of both players. I’m praying neither goes to NBA as both could use at least another year, and the Huskies certainly need them. However, like you say Tony W. has been talking about the NBA since he was in 7th grade & I can’t imagine him staying although he is much less ready for the NBA than T. Ross.

  20. Great analysis of these incredibly gifted, yet frustrating and incomplete ball players.
    Neither would have been early entry candidates when the NBA invested in experience, floor savvy and talent, those many years ago, and the NBA has suffered because of this reach for finding the next blue gatorade swilling supermarket star. As a Seattle native who only checks in on the NBA once every long while, it is evident that the pro league has no ambition in making the game technically better, and is content entrusting their product to athletes who make scoring (and even horrid missing and shameless turnovers) look fun and/or cool. Boo to the NBA and WOOF to my Dawgs in the NIT.

  21. Hilarious piece! Very accurate. I, too, wish both Ross and Wroten would continue their college careers. I suspect that no only has Wroten talked about the NBA since puppy-hood, it was encouraged by his dad so with that said, he’s likely to move along. Ross, as others have pointed out, is far more ready.

    If you love hoops and want to be thoroughly entertained, go be a Husky fan for a night. This is a good team with players who won’t disappoint.

  22. Another Husky fan here. I’ll echo what the rest have said – this is funny, insightful, and spot on. The line about the Senegalese soccer player and collared shirt guys in the first row had me laughing out loud. Tony bleeds purple an I love him for that.

    I’m disappointed with this team but cheer for them until the end and am glad there is some excitement outside husky land. Besides the T&T show this team also has an excellent and underrated top shooter in America. If CJ Wilcox is making shots you are in for a treat there too. Gaddy is also playing the best ball of his career right now as well.

    Go dawgs.

  23. Lol!!!! “Wroten can’t shoot and embarrasses himself” That is a disaster waiting to happen he couldn’t even lead UW to the NCAA Tournament with that swag. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with both of your descriptions though.

  24. Spot on analysis, with wonderful wit.

    Yes, the best line was about the passes to Azziz vs. The 3rd row fans.

    The thing you didn’t mention is that while being the total whipping boy for dissatisfied Dwag fans all season and while still having TONS of unrealized potential, Tony has improved IMMENSELY every da y this year, and given his all every minute.

    Despite all his flaws, I wish our fans would cut that dude a break.

  25. All the Huskies fans dropping by this site have helped turn a few New Yorkers into UW fans for this week!

    …Even after starting each comment with “pretty smart article … for a guy from the east coast…”

  26. Wroten should not even have been able to enrol in college. Shady, Shady, Shady. He lived out of district and parents bought a home near Garfield HS in Seattle just to have an adress so he could go there. Kids can pick where they want to go to school in Seattle and may felt it was not fair Wroten a star player who lived 15 miles away took a spot away from a deserving in district student. This is where is gets really sad.
    The Garfield AD was fired after an investigation a year ago as Wroten was not going to pass a Spanish class, thus not be eligable to enroll at UW. Well what did the AD do, created a fake class than only Wroten was enrolled in and he did basically nothing and passed. Google the articles and see what a sad state of affairs this country is in when a star player, who can’t even make a jumpshot or a freethrow recieves a free ride to college when they never did the work to get in.

    I would not draft Wroten for all the money in the world.

  27. Good value picks late in the 1st round for each of these guys. Who knows whether they will make the proverbial “leap” in the pros or not. Seems like confidence+talent+desire+system=a good NBA’er. Shout out to Brooklynsfans.com for posting the article.

  28. They might be worth a shot, since they didn’t go to Seattle Prep (think of other failed NBA prospects, e.g., Spencer Hawes, Martell Webster, Dan Kelly…wait a sec!)

  29. Wroten reminds me a little bit of Michael Jordan…. except that he can’t shoot, turns the ball over a little too much, not quite as competitive, and is a poor free throw shooter. He can drive into the lane well though…

  30. Could not have described Wroten better. You pointed out every strength and weakness to a t. The only problem is that even though he gets to the free throw line, he shoots below 60%, and tends to get rattled late in games (4 consecrative misses late in the pac12 tourney against osu that cost them dancing). As a Husky fan, I hope Ross stays and Wroten leaves. Abdul Gaddy is going to shine in his absence.

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