Well, it looks like Tracy McGrady will be back in the NBA for another year. After a summer of minimal interest in T-Mac (with the exception of the Clippers’ decision to let him work out), the Chicago Bulls seem prepared to make the 31-year-old guard-forward a deal for the upcoming season — at least.
The Bulls are in the midst of a reconstruction of their own, attempting (as best they can) to keep up with the fast pace that the Miami Heat have set during this year’s free agency. They got their big fish in Carlos Boozer, a scoring and rebounding power forward that gives them a post presence that they have sorely lacked in years past. Then they went after Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who simply lights it up from long range; he hit something like 53 percent of his three-point attempts in 2009-2010. They weren’t done yet, though. They also nabbed Ronnie Brewer, an underrated shooting guard who plays admirable defense and can score the basketball, too. To put on the finishing touches, the Bulls brought aboard Kurt Thomas as a veteran presence in the frontcourt and acquired C.J. Watson via sign-and-trade from the Golden State Warriors. He’s a solid backup for Derrick Rose.
But that’s not enough for Chicago, apparently hellbent on challenging Miami in the now-prestigious Eastern Conference. Its next move is to add the once-superstar Tracy McGrady to their rotation as a scoring option. There are, however, some stipulations for the deal. First of all, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy in a workout with the team. The Bulls don’t want to throw their money down the toilet if he’s just going to ride the pine in a boot all year. Second of all, he must agree that he’ll accept a bench role in the rotation.
In theory, adding T-Mac could pay substantial dividends. He showed for many years that he can score with the best of them. But aren’t there drawbacks to this? The most important one concerns whether he’ll be able to play good ball. While I said that he showed that he could score, he hasn’t exactly lived up to his reputation over the last couple seasons. In 2008-2009 with Houston, his scoring average dropped to 15.6 points. In 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, who were willing to give him a chance with that attractive expiring contract, he was a complete dud, scoring only 9.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting.
Accordingly, the Bulls risk bringing him on and letting him use too many possessions to shoot way too inefficiently when there are better options on the team. He might be able to accept a bench role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play like a bench player.
Then there is the potential problem that he won’t live up to his deal with the team. Sure, he might look good in a short workout with the team and pledge that he’ll be happy in the second unit, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay true to that all year. After he gets his deal, he might stop worrying about his game shape and find himself injured anyway. More problematically, he might recant on his satisfaction to come off the bench and start trouble in the locker room like he did in Houston. It’s the last thing the Bulls could want while trying to compete at the highest level.
There’s no doubt that T-Mac still has the talent to play a viable role in the NBA. But it seems to me that the risks in signing him to deal vastly outweigh the possible rewards that could result.