Ex-Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten never really got a fair shake.
Now granted, that wasn’t a particularly high bar to clear, as the early Process-era Sixers were an absolute mess featuring ‘star’ players like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, and Evan Turner, but still, averaging 16.9 points even on the worst team in the NBA is nothing to sneeze at.
And yet, 13 months removed from putting up a career-high 31 points in a home-court loss to the Chicago Bulls in November of 2014, Wroten was unceremoniously waived by the Sixers on Christmas Eve – effectively ending his NBA playing career right then and there.
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But what happened? I mean sure, Wroten missed the remainder of the 2014-15 season after undergoing surgery on a partially torn ACL, but he was by all accounts coming along fine after nearly a year of rehabilitation, appearing in eight games that December before he was ultimately waived. I know the team needed to free up a spot for Ish Smith, the veteran point guard Jerry Colangelo acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans for a pair of second-round picks, but this was the pre-Joel Embiid 76ers for goodness sake, you’re telling me there wasn’t someone on the roster who could have been waived over a 22-year-old walking bucket who averaged 13.8 points per game over a 110 game tenure?
In hindsight, that 2015-16 Sixers squad actually had quite a few NBA players who are still kicking around the league like Christian Woods, Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, JaKarr Sampson, and Ish Smith – not to mention future GM Elton Brand – but you’re telling me those other six, um, Sixers were better than vintage Wroten? I guess the Colangelos must have been huge fans of Kendall Marshall.
From there, Wroten signed with the Knicks, was waived by the Knicks, signed with his original NBA team, the Grizzlies, was waived by the Grizzlies, signed with the Grizzlies again, and was waived again, his final release by an NBA team. Wroten eventually latched on with the Texas Legends, a team in the then-G League, but was waived by the team after a little over a month.
In October of 2017, Wroten was drafted in the second round of the developmental draft by the Rio Grande Vipers, but his tenure with the Houston Rockets’ then G-League affiliate only lasted one season. From there, Wroten took his talents internationally, playing for Kalev/Cramo in the VTB United League, Anwil Włocławek in the Polish Basketball League, and most recently, Joventut Badalona of the Liga ACB in January of 2020.
Clearly, this wasn’t how Wroten saw his NBA career shaking out when he was eclipsing 20 points on the regular as Brett Brown’s top scorer but what are you going to do? Sometimes players just fall through the crack and become What Ifs, right?
Well, at 27-years-old, clearly Wroten doesn’t see things that way.
After initially hinting at a desire to return to the NBA in a June 13th retweet of a ThrowbackHoops appreciation post, Wroten was at it again Monday afternoon, retweeting a question from InsideHoops.com asking ‘Which unsigned NBA players do you want back in the league?’ with a simple, obvious answer: Tone Wroten.
Sidebar: I guess Tony Wroten goes by Tone Wroten now? Pro Basketball Reference really needs to step up its nickname game.
And you know what, he’s right – kind of.
Is it possible Wroten could walk into an NBA gym – or however teams are practicing at the moment – and hoop out? Sure, but that’s easier said than done. Wroten doesn’t know any current team’s playbook, hasn’t played with 90-plus percent of the league’s players, and would likely need some time to get things right before taking an NBA court. If the G-League was still up and running, I could totally see a team like the Delaware Blue Coats signing Wroten, giving him some time to reassimilate into the system and then evaluate his future moving forward a la his cousin Nate Robinson, but going from a mid-level Spanish basketball team to a playoff-bound contender is a rather unlikely turnaround, no?
Then again, J.R. Smith is apparently set to replace Avery Bradley on the Los Angeles Lakers after almost a year away from the NBA, so who frankly knows what is going on.
Look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Tony Wroten is out of the NBA for a reason, but for the life of me, I never quite understood how any player could go from being a double-digit scorer to a G-League journeyman without suffering a catastrophic injury that eliminates the athleticism needed to play his position. If his Vipors tape is of any indication, Wroten is every bit the player he was during his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers and assuming he’s kept his body right and is in good form I see no reason why he shouldn’t be on the NBA radar this fall when teams are looking to fill out their rosters for the 2020-21 season.
So remember Philadelphia 76ers fans, before there was Matisse Thybulle and Markelle Fultz, there was Tony Wroten and as his should-have-been-trademarked catchphrase famously goes, sometimes you just have to ‘Trust The Process’.