Think back to October 8th, 2014. It was a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets. In that game, Mitch McGary saw his first action as a pro and went on to score 14 points, while also grabbing 4 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. For that one night, the Thunder saw glimpses of what could possibly be a young high/low combination with McGary and Steven Adams. After that game, though, McGary was diagnosed with a broken foot and was sidelined off and on for about 4 months after that. When McGary returned in February, the team once again caught a glimpse of the type of player McGary could be: a high energy big man with a unique offensive skillset. That season he posted 3 double/doubles and had people wondering whether the Thunder got a steal with the 21st pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
After a successful summer league, McGary headed into camp last season looking to bull his way into a big man rotation that already featured Adams, Enes Kanter, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison. If there was time available, McGary was going to have to earn it through new coach Billy Donovan. As the preseason progressed, McGary showed signs of improvement and even a hint of a three point shot. But then he suffered a concussion in the next to last preseason game and was sidelined for the first week of the season. By the time he got back, the big man rotation was already set for the Thunder and had even grown to feature a stronger Kevin Durant in small ball line-ups. The rest of the season was a series of disappointing showings and back and forth shuffling between the Chesapeake Energy Arena (NBA) and Cox Convention Center (D-League). The regular season came to an unceremonious end for McGary as he was AWOL from the team for the final month to tend to “personal issues”.
While those personal issues were never disclosed, many believe he missed time to go to rehab for a substance abuse problem. To further compound that belief, it was learned during this past summer league that McGary would be suspended for the first 5 games of this upcoming season due to failing a drug test. (At the time this article was being written, the NBA tacked on another 10 games to McGary’s suspension which brings the total to 15 games.) For the third straight season, McGary will be unavailable for the Thunder at the beginning of the season.2015-16 statistics:
20 GP, 3.6 mins, 1.3 pts, 0.9 rebs, 0.2 asts, 0.1 blks, 0.1 stls, 47.8% FG, 40% FTBest-case Scenario
The best-case scenario for McGary is that he gets his life (sh..) together. Maybe that’s with the Thunder. Maybe its with another team. Regardless of the scenario, McGary will have to serve a 15 game ban as the NBA added on games to his original suspension due to non-compliance with the NBA’s drug program. The earliest McGary would be able to come back is in the latter half of November. By that time, most teams have their rotations figured out, and he’ll likely fall into the same funk he fell in last season. His only hope is that the Thunder somehow find a way to be merciful and give him one more chance. Maybe that includes a public mea culpa, followed by a public trip to rehab.
There have been glimpses of McGary’s talent. The Clippers game and the Trailblazers game from his rookie season. The two 11 point/6 rebound games in the preseason last year. He has the ability to be a Draymond Green-like player on the offensive end of the floor for the Thunder. Defensively, he’s a sieve, struggling to keep his man in front of him, especially if he is switched onto a guard. But if he’s paired with a player like Adams who can clean up his deficiencies, he should, in theory, be a net positive for the Thunder. In summer league this year, McGary seemed to be putting it all together. He was less “bull in a china shop”, and more controlled in his movement. A successful season for McGary may just be one that sees him play in as many games as possible, while possibly carving a niche out for himself as the season progresses.Worst-case Scenario
Honestly, outside of something completely controversial, there is nothing more that McGary can do to completely plummet his value. He’s tradeable only for the simple fact that he is young, tall, mobile, and on a cheap contract. Other than that, he’s basically persona non grata on the Thunder. Oklahoma City has always been known as an organization that caters to their players. I’m sure they’ve spoken with McGary over the years, and have provided him with options to help fight whatever addiction he has. At some point, though, the headache far outweighs the talent/potential, and that is where the Thunder find themselves with McGary.Percentage that he will be traded sometime this season:
75%. And I say only 75% because at this point, with 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster, the Thunder may just cut their losses and waive him outright. But if another team is willing to take a chance on McGary, then there is a 99.9% chance that he gets traded.McGary’s Season Preview
Lots and lots of time either in the D-League or out of the league. He’s damaged goods as far as the NBA is concerned. He’s injury-prone and now has the stigma of being addicted to some sort of substance. The fact that he is being re-suspended for non-compliance with the NBA’s drug program shows how far gone this young man is. As a person, I hope McGary gets his life together. But as a realist, I don’t know if McGary’s future has too much basketball in it for this season.