Tracy McGrady: A Comprehensive Buyer's Guide To the Fallen Star
Just a few years ago, Tracy McGrady was considered one of the elite players in the NBA; an offensive powerhouse that gave opposing coaches headaches.
What a difference a few years can make.
Now McGrady is giving his own coaches headaches, as injuries have deteriorated the 31-year-old shooting guard's value and prominence in the NBA today.
Still, a player with the pedigree of McGrady does not come on the free agent market every day, and not surprisingly several teams have interest in the former All-Star.
The question is, in what role?
McGrady can without question still be an effective player at the professional level. But his days of being the go-to guy are over.
Now whether he knows that, or is willing to admit that, is a different story.
We've seen some aging players fit in quite nicely to new teams and play their part, such as Gary Payton and Antoine Walker in Miami during the Heat's 2006 title run.
The Boston Celtics have an unselfish group of veterans who do what it takes to win.
Can McGrady join a team in the same capacity? Or will he still show symptoms of a me-first attitude and disrupt team chemistry?
Potential destinations for McGrady include both Los Angeles teams, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Orlando, New York, and New Jersey.
All those teams need to be aware of the risks associated with picking up McGrady. What follows is a list of pros and cons about the current state of Tracy McGrady.
Pro No. 1: McGrady Has a Prototypical Shooting Guard Body
You can't coach height. And for a shooting guard, T-Mac has a lot of it.
Michael Jordan redefined the ideal shooting guard, and once he retired several star players exhibited similar physical qualities to his Airness.
The two most obvious examples? Kobe Bryant and McGrady.
McGrady has not gotten shorter and not terribly weaker. He will still cause matchup problems for teams who have a small shooting guard, even if he's not as fast as he used to be.
At 6'8'', McGrady can also play small forward if necessary. Either way, his length will still allow him to shoot over people and remain a difficult opponent to body up and slow down.
Pro No. 2: McGrady Will Be Undervalued
While no concrete numbers have been tossed around with regards to McGrady, it's basically guaranteed that teams will refuse to overspend on a risky investment like T-Mac.
Still, he is a seven-time All-Star. He has made the All-NBA First Team twice, the Second Team three times, and earned back-to-back scoring titles in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.
All that, and he probably won't even get the mid-level exception.
Teams are running into the same snag with Shaq. The Big Diesel wants more money than he is worth.
O'Neal is also significantly older and could retire whenever he so chooses. McGrady has to believe he has a few more good basketball years left in him.
He will almost certainly take the most money offered to him. The problem for him (and the positive for the team that signs him) is it won't be for very much.
Pro No. 3: McGrady Can Still Score in Spurts
The key word here is "spurts."
Against Washington last season he put up 23 points in 26 minutes. He notched 26 points in 32 minutes against Oklahoma City.
But with that come games like against Philadelphia when McGrady shoots 0-for-7 from the field in 29 minutes and fails to score at all.
McGrady needs to realize that his time of making starting shooting guards look silly on defense is over. Lockdown defenders can completely neutralize him.
However, against second-string opponents, McGrady can wreak havoc. Give him 15-20 minutes off the bench, and he can contribute around 10 points per contest.
That would be his role on a new team as a scorer off the bench. He still has a lethal offensive arsenal, but it can only be used sparingly.
Con No. 1: McGrady Is Prone to Injuries
This is obviously a major drawback to any team considering investing in McGrady.
Who knows how long it will be before his previous injuries act up again? Who knows if he can come back from another surgery?
These are all major red flags, and are why McGrady will not be raking in the money after this free agency period.
Signing a player, especially to a multi-year deal, is a critical investment. And just like anything else, general managers do not want their assets to lose value.
Having millions tied up in an injured McGrady has to be a general manager's nightmare.
Yet the dream of a revitalized McGrady will eventually sway a team to take a chance on him.
Con No. 2: McGrady Has a Big Ego
McGrady would be an excellent sixth or seventh man on a championship contender. If he played 15-20 minutes a night against primarily other teams' reserves, there's no telling how valuable he could be.
However, teams question whether he would accept that role.
Superstars are used to superstar treatment. They are reluctant to accept a lesser role on a team because that would mean accepting that they are no longer an elite player.
Something about McGrady's attitude shows he still thinks he has "it." He thinks he can still be a star.
When, in reality, there is no team in the NBA in which he could even step into the number two role.
If a team signs him and intends to utilize him off the bench, it will just be a matter of time before McGrady complains, and eventually takes his complaints public.
That's a surefire way to ruin team chemistry.
Miami seems to not want McGrady for that exact reason. Chicago could be skeptical because he could be a cancer to their young squad.
T-Mac will have to learn to accept his role before a team will take a chance on him.
Con No. 3: McGrady Does Not Play Defense
Let's face it, if McGrady did not play defense when he was younger, quicker, and more athletic, he's not going to start now.
He has the height and length to be an effective defender, but teams who sign McGrady will not waste their time trying to teach an old dog new tricks.
Instead, they'll have to sacrifice and take the defensive liability in exchange for the scoring potential.
An ideal fit for McGrady would be on a team with an ample supply of good defenders to help him when he gets beat off the dribble.
Orlando and Dwight Howard fit that mold. To a lesser extent, so does Joakim Noah in Chicago. And of course, Miami's LeBron James could get to McGrady's man in a hurry.
Con No. 4: McGrady Has Lost His Quickness and Leaping Ability
Jordan and Bryant were able to combat aging by improving their finesse games. Both went from slashing and dunking to backing down their opponents and draining fadeaway jumpers.
McGrady has not developed a proficient finesse game, and quite possibly never will.
Of course, he has gravitated toward that style of play. He has the ability to knock down fadeaways.
But Kobe and Jordan were both perfectionists who made sure they played with fluidity. It never seemed forced when either created their own shot in a crafty manner.
For McGrady, who has been spoiled with using his size to torment his defender, making the adjustment will be difficult.
He has clearly not shown a dedication to the game near the level of Bryant and Jordan, which throws into question the possibility of him developing a finesse style of play.
Con No. 5: McGrady Is Not a Proven Winner
This is the most important point.
Why does a team generally need a veteran? Sure it might help on the court, but many coaches and general managers expect the veteran to be a stabilizer in the locker room.
That's not McGrady. He's nearly a lock to be a disruption.
He has never tasted postseason success, so he can't bring a gritty playoff mentality to a young team.
He has shot previous teams in the foot, namely the Rockets, which makes experts like Bill Simmons hate him forever (if you want proof, read his "Book of Basketball").
He might not be a guaranteed cancer in the locker room, but he's not the veteran presence a team wants.
So buyer's beware: A discounted T-Mac sounds good in theory, but there are several potential problems that could make signing the former All-Star not worth the risk.