Time is a flat circle. Four years after being drafted by the Grizzlies, and after a detour that included stops in Philadelphia and New York, Tony Wroten once again finds himself in Memphis. This time, though, the young guard out of the University of Washington is just hoping to do enough in training camp to earn a roster spot.
So how did Wroten manage to find himself back in the Bluff City? And now that he's back, what should the Grizzlies expect this season out of the player they once took 25th overall?
2015-16 Season Overview
After Wroten's 2014-15 season came to an early end last January thanks to an ACL injury, he opened last season in the midst of his rehab. He was assigned to the Delaware 87ers, Philadelphia's D-League affiliate, as part of that rehab in November before being recalled to the Sixers on December 4.
Following the recall, Wroten would go on to play all of 18 minutes with the Sixers before Christmas Eve, when Philly Santa delivered to Wroten a stocking full of coal in the form of his release from the team. (Note: Given Santa's history in Philadelphia, this is not surprising.) Wroten would remain unemployed until mid-March, when the Knicks would sign him only to play him even less than the Sixers (0 minutes) before unceremoniously waiving him on June 22.
Wroten finished last season with minimal stats: 2 teams, 18 total minutes, and per game totals of 8.4 points, 2.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.6 turnovers.
Nevertheless, the Grizzlies decided to bring back Wroten, though not before giving the yo-yo one last tug. Memphis initially claimed Wroten off waivers on June 27, waived him July 12, and finally resigned him on August 8 to a mostly non-guaranteed deal.
Wroten's two year deal is only guaranteed for $25,000 per Basketball Insiders, which means Wroten is most likely a training camp body and a "break glass in case of emergency" option if the team doesn't like what it sees in camp from rookie Wade Baldwin IV and former Energy player Andrew Harrison, or if there's a significant injury.
Given that Wroten's brief history in the league isn't suggestive of anything resembling a major upgrade over either player, it's likely going to take abysmal play out of the two current backup point guards for Wroten to have a realistic shot at the roster. If Wroten is kept on the team and there hasn't been a significant injury, the situation for Baldwin and Harrison must be dire.
Best Case Scenario
I'm going to assume that for this outlook, we're looking at the best case situation for Wroten, not the best case scenario for the team with Wroten, because, as mentioned above, the two situations aren't particularly compatible with each other. Wroten's best case scenario is his making the team out of camp, which, also mentioned above, means there's either been an injury, or Fizdale doesn't trust Harrison and Baldwin to run the offense. Both of these are bad from a Grizzlies standpoint but good from a "Tony Wroten gets to stay on the team" standpoint.
In that case, Wroten stays with the team, where he'd likely be used as a combo guard and hopefully manage to transform himself to a competent NBA player, a feat which he hasn't accomplished yet in the limited playing time he's had in what have admittedly been less-than-ideal circumstances. That’s probably setting expectations high, but maybe in the right situation, with strong coaching from Fizdale, Wroten can become something that he never got the chance to be in Philadelphia or New York.
Worst Case Scenario
Wroten fails to make the team out of camp and is waived. His spirit broken, Wroten settles into a deep depression, growing a massive beard and reading every scrap of material available about the life and lineage of the late, great Harambe. Upon discovery of a tenuous connection between the deceased gorilla and Bigfoot, Wroten moves to the Pacific Northwest to search for the mythical beast, hoping to make a name for himself outside of the basketball arena by answering one of Earth’s greatest mysteries.
As the season has grown steadily closer, I've grown more and more concerned about the Grizzlies' back-up point guard situation. That isn't to say that I'm down on Baldwin and Harrison (I actually like both players, and I'm probably more optimistic on Harrison than most) but I'm uncertain either of them is ready to run an NBA offense, full-time, right out of the gate.
But even with that said, I find it unlikely that Wroten makes the roster barring some medical issue with one of the team’s other options. Memphis has a lot invested in their young point guards, and Wroten doesn't look like anything more than a marginal improvement over either of them.
Wroten’s chances to make the team and contribute positively are there, but don’t get your hopes too high.