Tony Wroten is a joy to watch. He’s cat quick, hustles defensively, and attacks on O with a relentlessness and disregard for his body that borders on reckless; he’s like Allen Iverson with less coordination and more muscle mass. There’s something admirable, and maybe a little heroic about his game: he plays basketball the way great men live, as though he has absolutely nothing to lose. Here at Hoop76 we’ve published a few paeans to Wroten–who Sam Hinkie pried away from the Grizzlies for a pittance; amplifying the guard’s appeal–and more are likely to come. We like him a lot. There’s a lot to like.
And here’s the cherry on top: he’s been terrible. Not merely bad. Terrible.
Wroten’s an inefficient scorer (48.8 true shooting percentage) who shoots a ton (he’s averaging 17 field goal attempts per 36 minutes), sports an assist/turnover ratio that’s perilously close to 1:1, and heaves 3.6 3s a night despite the fact that he hits only 25 percent of them. According to win shares, he’s contributed negative 0.1 wins on the season and, by the reckoning of the Boxscore Geeks, his -1.3 wins produced aren’t only the lowest mark on the team, but the lowest in the entire league. Yes: Tony Wroten, according to one advanced metric, has been the worst player in basketball in 2013-14.
Which is great. The Sixers, as you might have noticed, are using this season to develop talent and position themselves to take one of the top players in the 2014 draft. Tony Wroten, by virtue of his awful play, has done more to advance the second objective than anyone in the organization. (In the 11 games Michael Carter-Williams hasn’t played, and the 20-year-old has been forced to take on an outsize role in his stead, the team has gone 1-10. Now that’s what I call tanking!) And while Wroten’s spectacularly submarined the Sixers chances of winning, in doing so he’s actually flashed enough talent and potential to improve his own standing around the league. The Sixers can easily flip him once they decide they want to start winning basketball games, maybe for something of value. The guard has failed with panache.
Most discussions of tanking strategy center around dumping productive players. I.e., if you want to lose, jettison your best guys. But what’s often ignored is an equally effective tack: simply play guys who stink. In this way. Wroten has been perfect for the 2013-14 Sixers.
So thank you, Tony. In the wise and boozy words of Tom Petty, “you’re so bad, the best thing I ever had.”