One of the positive aspects of the Sixers’ lack of dependable depth - and the resulting struggle this season - is the opportunity it provides the organization to try out talent.
Since the team isn’t aiming to make a playoff push this season, it can afford to focus on the future and give guys an opportunity to see if they fit with the franchise going forward, or if they could at least be developed into a tradable asset.
Tony Wroten, a castaway from Memphis, has already demonstrated in the first month of the season that he has an NBA-level skill set. That was far from a certainty heading into the season.
While he may be better suited for an off-ball bench role rather than the back-up point guard position he has been playing, Wroten has taken advantage of his extended opportunities and shown the league at large that he can contribute. With continued development, Wroten could turn into a rotation player for the franchise going forward, or at least a player that other teams would trade for. That, too, is a far cry from where he was just this past summer.
Now it’s Hollis Thompson’s turn.
Thompson - a 6-8 swingman from Georgetown who spent last season down in the D-League with Tulsa - was one of the last additions to the Sixers’ regular season roster. Displaying versatility but not a single spectacular skill, Thompson beat out Vander Blue and Khalif Wyatt (a move I questioned at first, given an affinity for shooters and a touch of Temple pride) for a roster spot.
To start the season, Thompson was buried on the bench, receiving inconsistent time and providing uneven production. However, as his playing time increased, so did his confidence, and in turn, his production.
Thompson has now started several games in a row for the Sixers, posting a career high 40 minutes in last Monday’s loss to Los Angeles. While his play has been far from perfect, it has been promising.
He has displayed his versatility and kind of reminds me of a (very) poor man’s Andre Iguodala. He is obviously not nearly as dangerous on the defensive end as Iguodala, who is one of the league’s best, but Thompson’s length helps him to guard perimeter players. On the offensive end, like Iguodala, Thompson can do a lot of different things; slash, spot up, drive, and hit the offensive boards; he just doesn’t do any of them exceptionally well.
Thompson is starting to look like a real rotation player, something I would not have said heading into the season. He’s not a true NBA starter, and quite possibly never will be, but if he continued to develop he could contribute. He could come off of the bench, play some D, and knock down some shots. If he can bring his three-point percentage up to close to where it was at Georgetown (where he made 291 three’s at a 44% clip), then that makes him just that much more dangerous.
Regardless of his role, Thompson’s improvement is evident. And the fact that Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown and the Sixers continue to find value in players that other teams overlooked is pretty promising.