While Jeff Hornacek's 2013-14 Phoenix Suns were making a splash in the NBA thanks to the "drive-and-kick" abilities of both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, another point guard was taking the league by storm in Philadelphia.
As the Knicks approach the NBA free agency period in the coming weeks, one of the biggest moves to help fix one of their biggest weaknesses may have been solved, at least in part. Knicks President Phil Jackson has gone on record telling people that he will not overpay on a free agent, which makes the Tony Wroten experiment that much more intriguing.
Wroten, discarded by the Philadelphia 76ers during the year following a return from a severe knee injury, is taking to social media talking about his goal with the Knicks: to be their starting point guard.
So excited to hoop. I WANNA play summer league. Can't wait for Orlando and then next season in the GARDEN. #LongTimeComing- Tony Wroten (@TWroten_LOE) May 22, 2016
Wroten isn't a traditional point guard, per se -- and I'll explain why in a second -- but he is perfect for the Phil Jackson's triangle system. He's a big, physical, versatile guard who is fearless attack the basket. While the early consensus from the media surrounding the philosophy of soon-to-be-named head coach Jeff Hornacek is that he won't be required to run the triangle, you should expect it will be integrated somehow. What Wroten brings is the best of both worlds for both Hornacek and Jackson. He's a big, physical guard with the elite ability of driving the basket, something that the Knicks really struggled with this year and that's driving to the basket. When you look at his resume, his driving stats are surrounded by the game's elite.
Before injuring his knee Wroten finished 13th in the entire NBA in drives per game (8.1) during the 2013-14 season. That placed him immediately ahead of the likes of Lebron James (7.6) Mike Conley (7.8) and Damian Lillard (8.0) and just behind a pair of Phoenix guards who played under Hornacek: Goran Dragic (10.0) and Eric Bledsoe (8.1). At the time of his injury during the 2014-15 season Wroten had increased his drives per game to 6th in the league at 10.3 per game ahead of James (9.8) and Russell Westbrook (10.2) and immediately behind James Harden (10.7). In the 8 games with the 76ers this season, Wroten rebounded to post 8.9 drives per game before being let go.
What is the significance of driving? Just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder. For one, drives allow for easy baskets, something the Knicks severely lacked this year finishing 27th in the NBA in points scored per game and 26th in assists per game. Driving puts the defense on their heels and forces defensive rotations leading to kick outs and wide open shots. They also allow for the team to play at a faster pace, something Hornacek will definitely want to do having been successful with that in Phoenix and an idea that Carmelo Anthony said he embraces.
While Wroten has the "drive" in the "drive and kick" philosophy seemingly down pat, it's the "kick" part that could use some sharpening. In his first 3 years in the NBA Wroten has passed off of his drives just 14.3 percent of the time. Compare those 3 years to that of Dragic (45.4%) and Bledsoe (32.7%) and you can see that once Wroten commits to the basket it results in his own shots. A big reason for that can be attributed to the lack of quality perimeter players in Philadelphia and the fact that he's incredibly unstoppable when attacking, but when you look at the league's elite this past year his average passes of drives are extremely low. This past year Rajon Rondo (43%), Westbrook (31.5%), James (28.7%), Harden (26.5%), Lillard (24.3%) and Derrick Rose (23.3%) all were much more adept passers than Wroten.
The Knicks believe they can help shape Wroten into a more willing passer and if they succeed they've added a player with an elite skill at a bargain rate. From the sounds of Wroten's tweets it appears that he'll be with the team at Summer League in Orlando working to fine tune his game and prove he can push for the starting job. When you look at his highlights and his resume, the Knicks may have really found themselves a gem who can immediately fit a pressing need and one that directly would impact their wins and loss record next year.The best part of it all being they added it without dipping into their funds to improve the team in other ways as well this summer.
Will he fit with the "kick" part of Hornacek's drive-and-kick system remains to be seen but it's definitely worth taking a chance on if you're the Knicks.