On Tony Wroten, Being A Player-Coach And A Case For The Rising Star


With the NBA All-Star festivities beginning in roughly two weeks, anticipation has been building for all of the events that lead into the spectacle. The main event will always be the game itself, but purists find joy in watching other players highlighted in the various events throughout the weekend. Many look toward the Rising Stars Challenge featuring the best of the rookie- and sophomore-season players in the NBA. It's a chance to see what many consider to be future All-Stars one day compete against each other in a game that removes all career expectations from them for one night. Essentially, you're given a chance to outshine your immediate peers. Of course, in similar All-Star Game fashion, it does come with its snubs.

In this case, it would certainly look to be Tony Wroten.

Let's just point out the obvious first. The Philadelphia 76ers are bad. In fact, if it wasn't for those teams in Orlando, Utah and Milwaukee, they would well be on their way to league-worst bad. Yet as terrible as their ability to win games has been, the Sixers have been fun. If nothing else, they've been one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season, largely in part to Wroten's contributions.

His ability to make plays while essentially serving as an adequate point guard hasn't just been impressive given where he was last season, but exciting to watch. Most importantly, he's bought in to Brett Brown's coaching philosophy and has been a floor general when needed.

“He was Coach Wroten. He was with us for four games when we were rolling on the West Coast and then he was disgusted with what he saw with the Minnesota game and the Cleveland game. From time to time it is good for those guys to step back and see it from a different light.”

Those comments were made by Brown to Dei Lynam of Comcast Sportsnet after the Sixers returned from their West Coast road trip in early January.

As the 25th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Wroten was largely underused by the Memphis Grizzlies, and a rebuilding Sixers squad decided to take a chance on the player. Despite having rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams (who was selected for the Rising Stars Challenge), Wroten has been a major addition to the rotation. In a season where every player on the roster is essentially playing for his next major career opportunity, Wroten has exceeded all expectations.

Averages of 12.6 ppg, 3.1 assists, and 3.2 boards a night don't jump out at you, but they do match up well in comparison to other second-year guards. Of course, as a sixth man on a team that has placed itself in the best situation to not win games, you have to go a bit further to see his value. The difference between good and great in the NBA often comes down to opportunity, and Wroten's greatest moments have attested to that.

When MCW was forced to sit out due to injuries early in the season, Wroten responded appropriately. His first start resulted in a win against the Houston Rockets and an impressive triple-double stat line of 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. In case you're wondering, Wroten made NBA history that night as the only player to ever record a triple-double in his first career start.

That game was just one of many, as Wroten carried an even larger load when MCW missed time in the early weeks of December, cementing a legitimate role in the Sixers rotation.

That is why his omission from the Rookie-Sophomore game isn't just confusing, it's borderline disrespectful. Wroten himself would seem to agree.

That tweet was made by Wroten as the rosters were announced, and he would follow up on his feelings to the press.

"Politics. I know I should’ve made it. It is what it is, you know? Just adds fuel to the fire."

Just as the All-Star Game in itself is a popularity contest and not always an accolade for the best talent available, it's not a reach for Wroten to suggest that he was excluded from the Challenge for lack of favor on his side.

In fact, if any proof is needed that he deserves a chance to play on the opening stage of All-Star Weekend, then ask his 2012 Draft mate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Now imagine that being repeated over the course of an entire exhibition game against some of the brightest the NBA has to offer. For reasons that none of us will probably ever know, this won't happen. It's a game that doesn't really matter, but it still means a lot to the people that play. It's only right that the deserving get rewarded.

For what it's worth, at least Wroten can still lay claim to giving us the best Derrick Rose highlight of the 2013-14 season, at the expense of Rose that is.

Related: The Philadelphia 76ers Thought It Was A Good Idea To Turn Allen Iverson Into A Rubber Duck

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