In what has become more of an Entourage-style offseason you’d see on HBO rather than your typical somewhat-dull NBA one, this summer has been quite different.
From the over-publicized “decision” by LeBron James to join forces with a new trio of talent in Miami, to the shuffle in the Eastern Conference that is suddenly appearing to make them look dominant, there are still quite a few big names on the free agent market.
Two of those key players are Tracy McGrady and Shannon Brown, both of whom are drawing interest from the Los Angeles Lakers.
But which player would fit better in LA, and help make the Lakers better than they already are?
Looking simply at stats, let’s take a quick glance at how Tracy McGrady’s numbers on the hardwood have fared through his 13 seasons in the NBA.
Over his career, McGrady averages 21.5 points, 6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
And although those numbers have declined over the past couple seasons (15.6 PPG in 2008-09 with Houston, 9.4 PPG in 2009-10 with New York), McGrady still has some solid years of basketball ahead of him.
Will T-Mac land in LA?
Who knows, but one thing is certain: McGrady still has NBA talent and is worthy of being picked up next season.
Looking at Shannon Brown’s stats, the four-year pro averages 6.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, and one assist per contest.
And although those numbers are hands-down much lower than McGrady’s, Brown really proved his worth in the playoffs this past season for the Lakers—especially in the opening round (6.2 PPG) and conference semifinals (7.3 PPG).
Will that be enough for him to stick around another season in LA?
Only time will tell, but a majority of Brown’s teammates and coaching staff will tell you they’d love to have the guard signed and returning to the Lakers next season.
Looking beyond the numbers—and into the intangibles such as injuries, hustle, taking charges, and attitude—let’s first take a closer look at Tracy McGrady.
McGrady, for the most part, has always been a guy that takes the game of basketball very seriously and wants nothing more than to win a championship.
In the same breath, McGrady has also been injury-prone (to put it nicely) and many began to question his hustle and attitude towards his final days with the Houston Rockets.
Were fans, writers, coaches, and teammates wrong to question the integrity of McGrady and how he handled the game?
Personally, I don’t think it was wrong for them to question those areas of a star player’s life by any means—and I also firmly believe that attitude and sportsmanship speak louder than an buzzer-beater or triple-double.
I’m not saying McGrady is a bad guy; I promise you.
What I am saying is that red flags have popped up historically with T-Mac and his handling of hardwood issues, and it’s something that should be looked at when a team shows interest in possibly signing a player.
Can McGrady be the player he was eight, seven, six years ago?
It’s possible, and as mentioned earlier, I still truly believe T-Mac has a few more years of basketball left in the tank.
But it’s up to McGrady to prove it.
Looking at the intangibles surrounding Shannon Brown is a little trickier because the guard has only been in the NBA for four years.
However, Brown is absolutely known for being a humble player with a great attitude both on and off the court.
Sure, he’s had his share of injuries over his young basketball career, but almost every player goes through those moments.
And for the first time in his four years in the NBA, Brown played in 82 games in the 2009-10 season—starting seven—while averaging a career-best 20.7 minutes per contest.
As far as the intangibles go, Brown is pretty solid all around—and he definitely appears to have a bright future ahead of him, no matter where he ends up landing.
It’s hard to say how Tracy McGrady would fit into LA Lakers head coach Phil Jackson’s system.
However, I am fairly certain the 13-year All-Star would have no problem whatsoever adapting to the Zen Master’s way of doing things.
McGrady is also a pretty solid defender, and the Lakers could definitely use some help in that regard.
But looking at the big picture and how T-Mac would mesh with the triangle offense and Jackson, I think McGrady could and would easily adapt.
Shannon Brown now has a little over one year of playing under Lakers head coach Phil Jackson.
And thus far, he doesn’t seem to be having any problems with working under a triangle offense.
With 82 games under his belt in the 2009-10 season, it’s obvious that Jackson is impressed with his young guard and he has rewarded Brown by giving him extended minutes.
Will he be back next season for even more?
So, beyond the coach, stats, and system, how would Tracy McGrady mesh with new teammates such as Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, and Derek Fisher?
Once again, I really don’t think McGrady has ever been—or will be—a bad teammate.
T-Mac, for the most part, gets along with almost everyone in basketball, and he’s known to spend a lot of time away from the hardwood with his teammates.
Therefore, I would see absolutely no reason for Bryant or his current Lakers teammates to fret about McGrady possibly joining the team.
If anything, T-Mac really could make the Lakers better than they already are.
As mentioned earlier, Shannon Brown has now had a year-plus to be teammates with Kobe Bryant and company—and he appears to be a great fit with the Lakers.
But sometimes great players (especially in terms of those with a high locker room presence and overall optimistic attitude) are over-looked or pushed aside in hopes of signing someone better.
Not to say that will happen to Brown, but it very well could.
However, if LA does decide to cut their ties with Brown, I guarantee you there are plenty of NBA teams out there ready to nab him up.
It can sometimes be depressing to mix postseason play and Tracy McGrady, as T-Mac has yet to get out of the first round of the playoffs in 13 seasons and counting in the NBA.
That’s not to say he’s the reason his team has choked in the postseason, although he has—both unfortunately and unfairly—been labeled as a player that cannot get out of the opening round of the playoffs.
Regardless, McGrady has still historically put up solid numbers in the playoffs.
In fact, through 38 postseason games, McGrady has averaged 28.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest.
Shannon Brown, though spending just four years and counting in the NBA, has played in 44 postseason games with the Lakers (21 during the 2008-09 season, 23 during the 2009-10 season).
Over that span, Brown averaged 4.8 points and 1.2 rebounds per game while playing approximately 13.3 minutes per contest.
Overall, I believe this decision really comes down to the Lakers wanting to take a low-budget risk with a possibility of tremendous results (Tracy McGrady) or build towards the future with an up-and-coming guard (Shannon Brown).
Either way, the Lakers can—and will—look beyond the numbers.
However, if you want my opinion, I think it would be in the Lakers best interest to bring on McGrady for the 2010-11 season.
Yes, Brown has a superb upside and will be an NBA guard for many years to come.
But McGrady brings more to the table, and the Lakers have a great shot at offering him the one thing he’s missing: A NBA Championship…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org