Tony Wroten, UW's mercurial young point guard, announced yesterday his plan to hire an agent and enter the 2012 NBA draft, following teammate Terrence Ross' move to the pro ranks. The two departures seemingly leave the cupboard bare for Lorenzo Romar and Co. next year, but there's a chance Wroten's exit could equal addition by subtraction.
If he is indeed taken in the first round, Wroten will receive a guaranteed contract and instantly become a millionaire. Regardless of whether you believe he is ready for the pro game (more on that in a second), it's hard to fault his decision: the guy has a chance to get paid handsomely to do what he loves, and he is doing what he feels is best for him and his family. Good for him.
But where does that leave the Huskies? On the surface, it seems UW is in for a down year. In addition to losing their two most talented players (Ross and Wroten), UW graduates senior glue guy Darnell Gant and human victory cigar Brendan Sherrer. Normally those holes could be filled by incoming freshman, but Romar has signed zero recruits in the class of 2012, instead focusing his efforts on the loaded 2013 class. (Update: The Huskies just signed local junior college phenom Mark McLaughlin, which should bolster their backcourt.)
Next year's starting five figures to be Abdul Gaddy, CJ Wilcox, Scott Suggs, Desmond Simmons (or perhaps Shawn Kemp Jr.), and Aziz N'Diaye, with redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews, and sophomores Martin Breunig and Hikeem Stewart likely to receive significant minutes. On paper, that team is nowhere near as good as this year's squad, and they would seemingly benefit from Wroten's innate ability to attack the basket and singlehandedly score 25 points per game. The key words, however, are "on paper" and "seemingly."
Wroten is a unique talent. Although he is currently incapable of shooting from farther than 12 feet (a deficiency he has vowed to improve in the offseason), or finishing with his right hand, he can still score seemingly at will. But he never could seem to figure out how to make his teammates better. Game after game he whipped no-look passes at N'Diaye, long after he should have realized that the big man's hands are made of granite. And too many times Wroten's relentless drives to the rim kept the ball out of the hands of Ross, the team's best all-around player.
I joked earlier this year that Wroten is "Trick or Treat Tony," meaning his performances tend to alternate between walking highlight reel and turnover machine. That phrase was borrowed from Bill Simmons (who originally used it to describe former Celtics guard Tony Allen), but perhaps a better Simmons meme to invoke with Wroten is the Ewing Theory, which applies to superstars (i.e. Patrick Ewing) whose departures improbably improved their former teams.
Without Wroten, the Huskies will be forced to take a more team-oriented approach to the game. In the NBA, where all players are elite, that usually spells disaster. But in college it can make all the difference. Gaddy's style of play is the polar opposite of Wroten's, and, although he has been mostly mediocre thus far, Gaddy has the potential to make a senior leap a lá Justin Dentmon, scoring in double-digits and distributing the rock to shooters on the perimeter. Wilcox ,the smooth shooting guard, could benefit from more looks, and Suggs is also poised for a breakout season as a fifth-year senior. That's a solid nucleus, and if other role players manage to show some improvement, the Huskies could once again finish near the top of what figures to be a weak Pac-12.
But then again, without Ross' slick shooting and Wroten's dogged drives to the hoop, they could just as easily finish last.