With his intelligence, decision-making, unselfishness and production, Tracy McGrady has been one of the biggest bargains in the NBA this season. He’s arguably been Detroit’s best player while making the veteran’s minimum, and because so few guys on the Pistons roster are actually producing at a level commenserate with their salary, it’s easy to understand why McGrady has stood out and been a good story this season.
But there’s also a reason Detroit was able to sign him for the minimum. Major knee and back injuries forced him to miss parts of the previous three seasons, and his trademark explosiveness was no longer going to be a big part of his repertoire.
Out of necessity, since he’s the most savvy of their several point guards in name only, the Pistons have had to increase his role. But although that might make the Pistons a slightly more watchable bunch, is that ultimately a good thing for McGrady? Check out his production in relation to his minutes:
- Minutes per game: 18
- FG Percentage: 47 percent
- Minutes per game: 20
- FG Percentage: 49 percent
- Minutes per game: 31
- FG Percentage: 44 percent
- Minutes per game: 27
- FG Percentage: 41 percent
McGrady has played in 1,297 minutes this season. Combined the last two seasons, he played only 673 minutes. He’s already played in nearly as many games this season (56) than he has the last three years combined (65).
McGrady being on the court more has no doubt been a positive for the ball movement in the Pistons offense. But is it good for McGrady?
As his workload has increased, his jump shot has been less reliable. It’s clear that McGrady is still getting his legs. He very obviously benefits from rest. He shoots just 42 percent on the second half of back-to-backs. That climbs to 44 percent in games where he has at least one day of rest. And when there are two days between games, he shoots 49 percent.
McGrady has certainly taken advantage of an opportunity to rebuild his career in Detroit, but at the same time, he’s also playing for his next contract. He’s clearly a more effective player when he’s in the 20-25 minute range each night vs. the 30ish minute range. Although McGrady has proven a lot this season by simply getting back on a court and re-inventing the way he plays, he still has to get through a healthy season to earn a contract next year. With his February minutes down a bit from January, it appears the Pistons might be mindful that an increased workload for him isn’t ideal. Hopefully the time off at the All-Star break combined with slightly fewer minutes in the second half will allow McGrady to finish the season at the level he was playing in November and December.
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