Friday, July 11, 2008

Now Starting for Your Detroit Pistons: Tracy McGrady?

According to MLive's Dave Dial, the Metro News (a Canadian newspaper) is reporting that the Pistons are making a "big pitch" to the Houston Rockets for F Tracy McGrady. McGrady has made the All-Star Game in seven of the last eight seasons, was named third-team All-NBA last year, and will be only 29 years old next season. No brainer, right?

Wrong. Except for a .2 point bump in 2006-07, McGrady's points per game have declined every season since 2002-03. He hasn't played more than 71 games in a season since 2004-05, due mostly to chronic back issues. T-Mac also has two years left on a deal that will pay him an average of $22 million per season, which makes him the seventh-highest paid player in the NBA.
Just to make the salaries work out, Detroit would have to trade two starters to Houston in the potential deal. Is a declining superstar with chronic back issues worth the price of Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups, or Prince and Rasheed Wallace? I really don't think so.

This reeks of a desperation move, one that would please the casual basketball fan who still thinks of T-Mac as one of the league's premier players but infuriate the dedicated fan who sees him as a huge risk. The Pistons can still contend with the players they have right now, assuming they can add some depth via free agency or a less costly trade. Boston is certainly not getting any younger, and they were all that stood between Detroit and an NBA Finals appearance last season. Yes, the 76ers added Elton Brand, but they're still a couple pieces (and maybe a couple years of development) away from being a Finals contender. The Cavaliers have done nothing to address adding a player who could take any attention away from LeBron James, who by now must be itching to sign somewhere else in 2010.

I would love to see Detroit shake up their roster with an impact trade, but trading two starters for McGrady has a much better chance of horribly backfiring than it does of vaulting Detroit past the Celtics in the East. Adding T-Mac doesn't make the Pistons markedly better, nor does it make them any younger. I'm hoping this is an unfounded rumor (why is this being reported in a Canadian newspaper?), or Joe Dumars is just doing his job and seeing if he can steal marquee players for pennies on the dollar. Otherwise, Detroit could be sabotaging its chances next season before it ever starts.

Detroit Pistons making 'big pitch' for Tracy McGrady (MLive)
Tracy McGrady Statistics (Basketball Reference)

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