Detroit MLE Dreams: Tracy McGrady

Essentials

Position: SG/SF

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 223 pounds

Years pro: 13

Age: 31

What he brings

Pros

  • Darfur, man. Darfur.
  • Everyone (annoyingly) quotes the Iverson ‘practice’ video relentlessly, but the T-Mac ‘It’s my fault‘ clip is — I’ll say it — the most underrated video in the history of players passive aggressively ranting at the media clips.
  • Despite missing the entire first half of last season, and despite losing a step or six over the past few seasons, McGrady was still nearly voted into the All-Star Game. I’m not making the case he was deserving, but I am making the case that a lot of people still like watching him play basketball.
  • During a recent workout with the Chicago Bulls, while T-Mac showed the explosion he was known for is gone, he did show a good shooting touch according to scouts, and perimeter shooting just happened to be a weakness for the Pistons last season.
  • Uh … Darfur anyone?
  • Sorry, that’s all I’ve got on this one.

Cons

How he fits

I’m not fooling anyone. There’s no real way McGrady fits with the Pistons. But Joe Dumars said the team planned to use its mid-level exception, and if we have to delve into the merits of every Tom, Dick and Louis Amundson on the market, we’re going to do it.

Why did I pick McGrady? For starters, I kind of love him. I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and what would be a better redemption story than McGrady joining the Pistons, the team that he made his infamous ‘feels great to be in the second round‘ comments about a tad prematurely in 2003, then finally ridding himself of those ‘T-Mac can’t get out of the first round’ accusations by showing up in fantastic shape, recapturing his old form and leading the Pistons into the playoffs and to a first round upset of … I don’t know … let’s say Chicago.

McGrady would definitely get t-shirts printed that say ‘second round.’ And you know you’d probably buy one. The second round would be like winning a title for T-Mac.

Do I have any serious analysis? I’ll give it a shot. McGrady has not found a team for similar reasons that Shaquille O’Neal has not found a team. They are trapped in 2002 when they were both young, alpha-dog superstars and can’t come to grips with the fact that not only are they role players now, they are going to be paid like role players. It’s easy for us to sit back and say, “well, they made their money, why not take less and try to win?” It’s not about the money, it’s about the prestige of being paid and respected like the stars that they are in their own minds.

Best case scenario for McGrady, no matter who he signs with? He comes in in fantastic shape, he comes in with a chip on his shoulder because of the perceived disrespect of no teams wanting to sign him, he takes a one year deal for a few million, he stays healthy and he shows that he can still hit his jumper at a reasonable clip (shouldn’t be a problem since he’s taller than a lot of wing players and should get some looks as a result of that) and, in the right situation, can occasionally get to the basket and finish.

If McGrady can score 10-15 points per game in 25ish minutes a night — and if he’s healthy, I wouldn’t bet against it — he still has a bit of value. Where do the Pistons come in? If they get him on a one-year deal for a portion of the mid-level, he can come in and push incumbent vets Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.

Basically, tell them the team has starting caliber minutes for one of them. All three are coming off of unproductive and/or injury plagued seasons. The starting spot and big minutes go to the one of them who comes in in the best shape, who shows that he still has the most left to contribute and the one who is hungriest to earn/keep a job. The rest of the minutes will go to young players.

If the player who wins that job happens to be McGrady, then great. He re-asserts himself as a decent NBA player, he has value because his deal is affordable, and with Prince and Chris Wilcox, he gives the Pistons a third expiring contract that can be used as an asset at the trade deadline. If they don’t trade him, he plays a full season in Detroit, is semi-productive and he gets paid a little bit more by a team that wants him next season.

Why he doesn’t fit

That’s a pretty out-there scenario I just cooked up, even for someone as versed in reader alienation as I am. McGrady has been not just injured, but chronically injured the past two years. He also has a lot of mileage as a result of carrying Orlando/shooting like 50 times a game for most of his career.

The Pistons don’t need wing help, they need frontcourt help. McGrady hasn’t had the reputation of always being the greatest teammate. And the Pistons have two young wings in Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko who have a hard enough time getting minutes as is, without another broken down veteran in front of them.

There are so many good reasons not to sign McGrady that I won’t bother listing them all, but he does kind of fit the profile of guys Joe Dumars used to look for — cheaper players with something to prove.

Signability

Money is important to McGrady. I can’t see him signing for the minimum, and I’m not saying it’s greed that prevents him from doing that as much as pride. Max players always see themselves as max players. The money is great, but the respect that goes with that max contract is equally as ego-building.

If I were convinced that McGrady could contribute, I’d offer a one-year deal at a million or so over the vets’ minimum. I have to believe that would be the absolute most money anyone would pay him, but it’s not back-breaking, it’s not the full mid-level and if he’s remotely productive, it’s good value.

Conclusion

If the Shaq post was an unlikely scenario, McGrady to the Pistons is about as far-fetched as it gets. The Pistons obviously could still use a big, and if free agency is the route they are going to go, I would guess that the conversations about the merits of guys like Josh Boone or Brian Skinner are not particularly exciting.

Signing a guy like McGrady is a definite gamble, but at worst, he’s unproductive but still a small expiring contract on the bench if the team is in a position to make a trade at the deadline and needs more salary filler. At best, he becomes moderately productive and entices a contender in need of bench scoring to give up a pick or young player for him midseason. It’s highly likely that the Pistons roster is set right now, but if they did make a signing, taking a gamble on McGrady would be more interesting than one of the low-ceiling bigs still available.

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