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Tracy McGrady’s reverse dunk just a sign of things to come?

Last night against the Wizards, Tracy McGrady cut to the basket, caught a lob and finished with a reverse dunk.

Initially I didn’t bat an eye, because that was a typical McGrady play. But then I remembered the T-Mac who had no lift in his final days as a Rocket, struggled last year with the Knicks and played cautiously in his brief Pistons career so far.

And apparently, McGrady believes we’ll see more plays like that from him in the future. From Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

“I envision being that guy again,” said McGrady, now 31. “Whether that happens I don’t know. I would like to be that guy. I’ve worked so hard to get back to being that guy. If it doesn’t happen I can look in the mirror and say I’ve done everything possible because I’ve come a long way to come to where I am today.”

If I’d read that comment from McGrady a few weeks ago, I admit I would’ve been skeptical. But every time I see him play, I grow less so. It would be unheard for a player, at his age with his significant injury history, to return to the form that helped him win a scoring title and dominate games with his athleticism. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of McGrady as a starting-caliber player in this league.

The Pistons probably don’t have enough minutes to give him so we can fully find out, but the basic reason McGrady came here was for an opportunity to show the league he can still play, and he’s done nothing to disappoint so far.

UPDATE: Mike Payne’s comment from below was worth highlighting. McGrady’s defense has been top-notch so far:

Warning– stat nerdery.  If you have access to Synergy, take a look at McGrady’s defensive stats.  On 49 defensive possessions so far this season, Tracy is holding his man to 29.7% shooting.  That makes him the 13th best defender in the league so far this season– regardless of position.

18 Comments

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  • Nov 22, 20101:24 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    T-Mac could have some real value at the trade deadline if he continues to show progress with that knee and his explosiveness.

  • Nov 22, 20105:53 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    Hey it would be nice to see the guy get back his athleticism but one thing that stands out more to me is his shooting. He still hasn’t got the lift required in his shooting motion. You can especially see this on his free throws. I am sure this will work its self out with more time on the court. McGrady should follow the lead of Grant Hill who is looking to play well into his 40s by taking care of his body. Good luck to the guy is say!

  • Nov 23, 20101:32 am
    by Basketball Bloke

    Reply

    T-Mac also had a nice block that took me back to the good old days. Question: if he does get his explosiveness back, what does this do to an already overcrowded perimeter rotation?

  • Nov 23, 20108:22 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    maybe we could trade for Darko, a seven footer who rebounds, blocks shots, plays good post defense, can pass, and on good nights, score.

  • Nov 23, 20108:26 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    Darko is the poster child for the type of player who needs to be given minutes to play, needs to have the coaching staff show confidence in them so they can have confidence in themselves. Some players do not have the ability to”earn minutes” until they receive that kind of affirmation from their coaches and teammates.

    Q is messing up Austin Daye’s game and head..

  • Nov 23, 20108:47 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Basketball Bloke:

    I don’t think he’ll ever get more than 20 minutes or so a game, explosiveness or not. It was very clear when he signed in Detroit the role he’d be playing, and I’d expect that he’ll continue to get most of the minutes backing up Prince, occasionally some backup SG minutes if Hamilton or Gordon is hurt or something and occasionally run the offense at PG if Bynum is hurt or ineffective.

    The only way he’ll get more is if the Pistons make a trade.

    McGrady is progressing, but it’s hard to imagine him getting all the way back that quickly. If he’s reliably scoring 8-12 points a game around the All-Star Break on efficient shooting, then this signing was a win for the Pistons and McGrady will definitely catch on somewhere else next year.

  • Nov 23, 20108:48 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:

    “Some players do not have the ability to”earn minutes” until they receive that kind of affirmation from their coaches and teammates.”

    Yeah. They’re called soft players.

  • Nov 23, 20108:56 am
    by Ex-Rocket-Fan

    Reply

    That wasn’t a reverse dunk.  It was a straight forward alley oop.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4O2twDF9FI
     
    And here’s the block:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLU9WDjmlLA

  • Nov 23, 201012:09 pm
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    Warning– stat nerdery.  If you have access to Synergy, take a look at McGrady’s defensive stats.  On 49 defensive possessions so far this season, Tracy is holding his man to 29.7% shooting.  That makes him the 13th best defender in the league so far this season– regardless of position.
     

  • Nov 23, 20102:25 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    done nothing to disappoint?
    i don’t care what his stats say, i know what i see on the floor: he’s been horrible defensively.
    (stats can obviously be manipulated in many fashions.  i’ll have to take a close look at those numbers and the methodology. )
    he can’t guard anyone, one-on-one.
    often, the pistons end up playing a 3-2 zone, when mcgrady is in the game, with mcgrady and a big man down low.  when this has happened, it has forced a big guy – CV or max, for instance – to play out on the perimeter, chasing a smaller player.
    and when he has had to guard someone on the perimeter – a SG or SF – that player has routinely been able to almost walk around mcgrady.
    the one thing that is interesting, however, is that he still gets respect from the refs, as befits a superstar, as he is allowed to hack and rip at the guy he is guarding in a way that no other piston is allowed to do.  he definitely gets the superstar treatment in that respect and he takes full advantage as he is very aggressive about going after players, when he can get close to them.
    as i said, i have no idea how that stat is compiled, but it bears no relation to what this fan has seen on the court.
     

  • Nov 23, 20102:47 pm
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    @frankie d:
    Are you familiar with Synergy Sports, the video scouting and stat service?  Dan Feldman introduced it to PP here:
    http://www.pistonpowered.com/2010/05/introducing-synergy-and-why-opponents-should-screen-will-bynum-more/
    So far this season, Synergy has documented 10 iso play attempts against McGrady this season, only 2 of those 10 converted.  This isn’t about “manipulating stats”, because with Synergy you can then watch all of those isolation plays as video clips.
    “and when he has had to guard someone on the perimeter – a SG or SF – that player has routinely been able to almost walk around mcgrady.”
    I just watched every single video of McGrady guarding a player in isolation on the perimeter.  The videos include McGrady guarding Brandon Roy, Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant and Travis Outlaw.  Of those, only Paul Pierce scored, and the only other player that was able to create a line to the basket was Stephen Jackson who McGrady forced into Ben Wallace who took the charge.  Beyond the lone basket and the Jackson play, McGrady’s defense on the perimeter looks STIFLING.  His man just falls apart and can’t get a shot up through him– and certainly can’t get around him.

  • Nov 23, 20103:19 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    thanks for the link and i’ll certainly watch the video in a while.  i have to run an errand and won’t be able to get to it for about an hour or so.
    initially, however, i have this to say.
    10 instances?   i am not a stats expert, but i know enough about stats to know that 10 is an extremely small sample upon which to draw any conclusion.  any poll that attempted to discern any conclusion based on 10 interviews would be laughed out of any discussion.  any person familiar with stats and numbers will tell you that you cannot make any kind of reliable conclusion based on a sample of 10.  especially if those the ten in a particular sample are not selected in a manner to make them representative of a larger whole.
    secondly, these are all obviously selected, subjectively, for whatever purpose.  as i noted, when i’ve watched mcgrady the team most times tries to hide him in that 3-2 zone.  if they had such great confidence in his ability to defend, then why do they attempt to hide him in the bottom of a zone that will not require him to extend out on to the perimeter?
    (by the way, roy is hobbled, has been all year and is a shell of himself.  everyone and their mother has been guarding roy well.)
    the freep – i think it was the freep – had a short piece this weekend on mcgrady, where they praised him for his offense against washington, but also advised that he struggled to keep up with nick young, hardly an offensive juggernaut.
    frankly, this is extremely amusing.
    now mcgrady is a defensive stopper.
    i doubt if even coach k or joe dumars would venture to describe mcgrady in those terms.
    btw, you conveniently forget to note that i agree that mcgrady has been aggressive about going after players, when he can get close to them.  and he has been able to get away with hacking guys that he can get his hands on.  typical superstar treatment in the nba.  as a detroit fan, i certainly don’t object to a piston finally getting a bit of superstar leniency, but i don’t confuse that for defensive proficiency.
    and all of the guys you note – except for durant – are power players who go over and through guys.  not the type of very athletic player that mcgrady just has not been asked to guard often, if at all.  other pistons have been forced to guard those guys while mcgrady has been hiding down low in that 3-2 zone.
     

  • Nov 23, 20104:41 pm
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    @frankie d:
    10 instances?   i am not a stats expert, but i know enough about stats to know that 10 is an extremely small sample upon which to draw any conclusion.
    If I was making a conclusion, I’d agree with you.  I wasn’t.  I was careful about how I phrased my initial point about McGrady, by saying that “so far this season” that McGrady has had one of the best defensive performances in the league.  I’m not suggesting that it’s sustainable nor did I make any other conclusion about what the team can expect out of McGrady for the rest of the season.  I chimed in here to share the observation, not a conclusion, which is sourced in objective data.
    Back to the whole point of my responding to you:
    10 instances?
    Yes, 10 instances– all ten plays in which McGrady has been defending an iso play on the perimeter.  These aren’t cherry-picked, they were categorized by Synergy Sports in the exact play type where you suggested players were “blowing by McGrady”.
    You mentioned that these players have “routinely been able to almost walk around mcgrady”.  So I looked it up and watched the plays.  There were 10 of them.  I watched every single one.  Nothing you described was happening.  Nada.
    “now mcgrady is a defensive stopper.”
    Again, did I ever say that?  My entire point of chiming in on this thread was to share the surprise I had when discovering this nugget of data.  I’m not making any conclusions about Tracy McGrady, only reporting what has happened so far this season.  My point of contention with you is that your note about perimeter iso defense isn’t reflected statistically or in the video available.  It’s kind of pointless to dispute that, since it just isn’t there and I don’t know what to tell you.
    “btw, you conveniently forget to note”
    It wasn’t convenient, it just wasn’t related to the reason I engaged you here.  I disagree with the assessment that players are “blowing by” or “walking around” McGrady on perimeter iso plays.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  I think you’re confused about what it is I’m saying and what it is I disagree with you about.

  • Nov 23, 20105:16 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    “On 49 defensive possessions so far this season, Tracy is holding his man to 29.7% shooting.  That makes him the 13th best defender in the league so far this season– regardless of position.”
    this is what you posted initially.
    that sounds awfully like a conclusion to me.  the 13th best defender…
    “…so far…” qualifies the conclusion somewhat, but that is still a heck of a conclusion.
    i’ve seen mcgrady isolated many more times than 10 this season.  on the occasions when i’ve seen him, and he’s been isolated on a guy, he has routinely been beaten in that manner.
    i have no idea how synergy compiles it’s stats or comes up with video clips that illustrate it’s point.  i could not get into the website in order to check it out.  i guess you have to pay to do so.
    but, again, i know what i’ve seen and what i’ve seen has been a hobbled, almost crippled mcgrady.
    are you arguing that when mcgrady was first inserted into the lineup, when he was barely able to move around, that he was this “stifling” defender?
    if that is the case, why has your website mate,  dan feldman, until recently, argued that he still was not sure that mcgrady was doing anything to earn his minutes on the court.
    this is what dan feldman said about mcgrady after the boston game, the 4th game of the year:
    “When Tracy McGrady left the game for DaJuan Summers, I had no idea it was because McGrady’s knee was bothering him. I guess I can’t tell the difference between a healthy and injured McGrady anymore.
    McGrady has done nothing to earn minutes, and it’s time Kuester pulls him from the rotation. I told this to Patrick during the game tonight, and he agreed, saying, “Yeah. Summers is much better than McGrady.”
    I honest had no idea if he was being sarcastic (he wasn’t), and that should say something about the state of the Pistons’ rotation. Not only are they playing someone whose knees prevent him from making any type of impact, I can’t tell if his replacement is any better.”
    this is after what you call mcgrady playing “stifling” defense on kevin durant and travis outlaw.  surely mr. feldman should have noticed such stifling defense on those two players, especially mr. durant, an MVP candidate.  and i’d imagine that he may have mentioned it.  or at the very least, that he would not have stated that mcgrady had done nothing to earn minutes and that he should have been pulled from the line up.
    what i recall is mcgrady hobbling around the court, incapable of guarding anyone and trying to hide in the lane, along with the pistons’ big guy in that zone.
    and i do specifically recall a guy like kyle korver torching mcgrady during chicago’s victory.  and once mcgrady not even being able to run down court with korver who beat him down, spotted up and drained a very important jumper at a crucial point in that game.
    korver torched mcgrady for several baskets that game, but somehow that performance doesn’t get mentioned.
    i guess dan feldman didn’t see what the stats at synergy saw.  i guess he must have been blind to that rodman-like stifling defense.
    i guess i missed it also.
     
     

  • Nov 23, 20106:13 pm
    by Mike Payne

    Reply

    “that sounds awfully like a conclusion to me.  the 13th best defender…
    “…so far…” qualifies the conclusion somewhat, but that is still a heck of a conclusion.”

    I didn’t make that conclusion, Synergy did.  That is his defensive ranking, league-wide.
    “are you arguing that when mcgrady was first inserted into the lineup, when he was barely able to move around, that he was this “stifling” defender?”
    I’m not arguing anything, I’m sharing the data compiled by Synergy.  I used the word “stifling” to describe the 20% shooting he has held his opponent to in isolation, upon watching the videos.  I still stand by that, so do Synergy’s stats.
    “korver torched mcgrady for several baskets that game, but somehow that performance doesn’t get mentioned.”
    Duuuuuude, stick to the point of discussion.  None of those baskets were isolation plays on the perimeter, the sole thing I’m arguing with you about.  Man, you’re making this out to be a discussion about McGrady’s entire game, when the only thing I’ve been talking about in our back-and-forth is McGrady’s perimeter defense in isolation play.  Repeat that to yourself.  Two times.  Then a third.  Like I said:
    “McGrady’s defense on the perimeter looks STIFLING”
    You said he gets “blown by” and “walked around” in isolation on the perimeter, and this is the one single thing I disagree with you about.  Circular discussions and straw man arguments make Jack a dull boy.

  • Nov 23, 20106:18 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    and ignoring real arguments and points makes someone very dishonest.
    i have to run now, but i also noticed that in addition to constantly changing what you are supposedly writing about you have conveniently ignored what your own colleague wrote.
    but i guess that happens when you really cannot defend what you post.
    btw, you didn’t say, synergy says…
    you posted a conclusion based on evidence from synergy.
    at least be honest and acknowledge what you have actually written.
    gotta run.
     

  • Nov 23, 201011:22 pm
    by Ex-Rocket-Fan

    Reply

    T-Mac nuthugger here chiming in…
    T-Mac’s on ball defense has always been good.  That the synergy stats bear this out doesn’t surprise me, even given the fact that he has struggled to move fluidly most of this season (though he started to look a lot more fluid in the last game at Dallas)
     
    It’s not his on ball defense, but his off the ball, team defense that has always been his weakspot.  He often loses sight of his man, ignores cutters, fails to box out, etc.  This was true even when he was fully healthy.
     
    Does synergy track these types of defensive plays?  It would be interesting to know..

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