Note: This piece is the second part in an ongoing series where we look NBA players turned D-Leaguers to determine what they could do to make it back to the Association. In the first part, we took a look at former Mavericks forward Quincy Acy. Now, we’re going to examine former Memphis and Philadelphia guard Tony Wroten. To follow along with the series, follow @ridicupside on Twitter.
Towards the start of the 2014-15 season, Tony Wroten seemed to be on his way towards standing as the NBA's more impressive young guards. As one of the lone bright points on a wretched 76ers squad, Wroten impressed with his athleticism, fluidity as an on-ball cutter and excellent facilitating skills. Those traits pushed Wroten to average 16.9 points, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game on 40% from the field.
Wroten’s fantastic start to the 2014-15 season came to an unfortunate end on January 13th, 2015 where he suffered a partially ACL in a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. Although that injury was an abrupt end to a career-best season, it was expected that Wroten would be able to make a full recovery and be right back in the 76ers rotation in the following season.
As the NBA neared the start of its 2015-16 season, 76ers fans around the country remained optimistic about Wroten’s recovery after seeing numerous Instagram posts of him laying down some vicious dunks.
However, that optimism surrounding Wroten quickly turned into a massive amount of disappointment once he came back to the 76ers. After spending a month in the D-League to continue his ACL recovery, Wroten returned to the 76ers rotation for a December 5th matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
Unfortunately, Wroten never really returned to that solid level of play from the 2014-15 season. Wroten was actually atrocious in his first eight games with the 76ers as he averaged 8.4 points, 2.5 assists and 3.6 turnovers per game on 34% from the field. In fact, Wroten actually had more turnovers (29) than made field goals (22) during that period of time. Those troubling numbers pushed the 76ers to waive the young guard on December 24th, just three weeks after they brought him back to the team.
Despite both the Knicks and Grizzlies signed Wroten to separate deals since his cut from the 76ers, the 6’6 guard hasn’t played a single minute of NBA basketball over the last 11 months. That predicament ultimately forced Wroten to look at the D-League to build some momentum to hopefully return to the NBA.
On Monday evening, The Step Back editor Chris Reichert reported that Tony Wroten has a D-League contract and was claimed off waivers by the Texas Legends. Wroten’s signing marks the Legends’ continued pursuit for younger former NBA players that are looking to make a return to the Association. For example, we just wrote a piece yesterday on new Legends forward Quincy Acy and his potential in the D-League. Alongside that, the Legends just recently announced that they acquired former NBADL All-Star Pierre Jackson in a deal with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
In the new look Legends rotation, Wroten should thrive as the Legends main ball-handler that has a handful of solid players to work with. First off, Wroten will be working pick-and-rolls with either Quincy Acy or Jameel Warney. Both players should be great partners for Wroten as they’re athletic front-court players that can roll right towards the paint.
Alongside that, Wroten might actually be the best cutter in the D-League before he even puts on that Legends jersey. That optimism is due to Wroten’s ability to work past his defender whenever he desires, whether he utilizes a smooth first step or slick handles. A prime example of that is seen in the play below where he breaks the ankles of current D-League guard Ray McCallum.
What does Tony Wroten need to do to return to the NBA? Honestly, Wroten probably stands as a player that’s good enough to be in the rotation for most NBA teams. Just two years ago, Wroten stood as a promising young guard due to his skills as an incredible cutter and standout facilitator. If he can transition those skills to the D-League, then a whole heap of NBA teams could be looking to bring in Wroten.
Over the last 24 months, Wroten has experienced a wide array of emotions. From the joy of the 2014-15 season, sadness of the ACL tear to the disappointment that came with his brief stints with the Grizzlies and Knicks. As Wroten transitions to the NBA D-League, hopefully he can return to the optimism that he once experienced. Because if the 23-year-old can shine with the Texas Legends, Tony Wroten could be well on his way towards returning to the NBA. Hopefully this time it’s permanent.