Entangled in a scrum for a loose ball under the rim in the first quarter of Monday’s 94-83 loss to the Clippers, Tony Wroten ripped the lettering that spells out ‘Los Angeles’ clean off the front of opposing center DeAndre Jordan’s jersey.
A bizarre wardrobe malfunction, sure, but dig a little deeper.
Think of the stitched letters located on the jersey of a 6-foot-11 wall of muscle being torn off by a 6-foot-5, 20-year-old guard as a parallel for the tenacity and spark that Wroten has brought to an otherwise listless 7-16 Philadelphia 76ers team.
In eight games filling in as a starter for an ailing Michael Carter-Williams, Wroten’s nearly doubled his 9.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 2.4 APG in 13 games off the bench to a blistering 18.5-5.3-5.4. He even recorded a triple-double a few weeks ago in a win over the Rockets—in his debut start, no less, an NBA first.
Acquired over the summer for a 2014 top-50 protected second round pick, Wroten has come a long way from a rookie season in which he played a mere 272 minutes for Memphis. And while his sudden emergence shouldn’t appear as sudden as it has—he’s been on the national radar since his middle school years—the early signs are promising. Even if he makes small improvements to his shooting, ball-handling, and decision-making, he could become a terror for smaller guards. In some ways, he already is.
Now, let’s not get too carried away with the counting stats. His 3-point shooting (13-for-67 through 20 games) leaves plenty to be desired and his triple-double, while impressive, was far from a lesson in efficiency. He shot under 40 percent and committed four turnovers—one of five times he’s done so this season. And the advanced statistics do him no favors; his .09 Win Shares per 48 minutes are the fourth-lowest on the Sixers, according to Basketball Reference.
Then again, this comes with the territory. Remember: he’s a 20-year-old, second-year point guard playing too many minutes on a team with few offensive options. The turnovers show he’s out there, experimenting and getting involved with the offense. The stuffed stat sheets demonstrate he’s a playmaker—or believes he’s a playmaker—and believing may be half the battle.
When Carter-Williams gets back on the court, Wroten will in all likelihood return to his reserve role and play around 20 minutes per game, as he did before the injury. That is, unless, first-year coach Brett Brown shakes things up and inserts Wroten into the starting lineup alongside Carter-Williams. A lineup featuring what could be the Sixers’ backcourt of the future in Wroten and Carter-Williams, alongside the semi-revived Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes?
Even if he returns to the bench upon Carter-Williams’ impending return, it won’t be long before LeonDre Wroten is filling up the stat sheets again. His heavy production can’t be ignored, especially if he adds a touch of efficiency.
The next time he’s in the starting lineup, he’ll be there to stay.
Pat DeCola is a reporter based out of Charlotte, N.C. He has covered the NBA for FOXSports.com, FOX Sports regional websites and Bleacher Report.