Fantasy owners are like accountants: their primary concern is numbers above all else. And few players have put up numbers over the last decade like Tracy McGrady, which makes his current exile from the Houston Rockets so frustrating. T-Mac put up a 32-7-6 season just a few years ago, and now he's saddled with a virtual restraining order from the Rockets' facilities. Thankfully, Houston is determined to trade the league's highest-paid player, which could mean that he could be appearing relatively soon in an NBA arena near you. But will he be fantasy viable? Let?s examine the facts, his potential suitors, and how each scenario would affect his fantasy value:
The skinny: McGrady had microfracture surgery on his left knee last February 24th. He has played in six games this season since then, averaging only 7.7 minutes per contest. In those games, he reportedly didn't favor his reconstructed knee, though his play was extremely rusty. After being allowed to seek a trade from Houston a few weeks ago, McGrady has since been working out in Chicago. Trainer Tim Grover has noted that T-Mac's knee is "one-hundred percent ready," and has invited scouts to watch any and all training sessions. It should be noted that last season, prior to his microfracture surgery, McGrady averaged 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists, though it?s debatable how much of that time was spent playing on the knee injury.
The risk: The going belief is that it takes roughly two years to fully recover from microfracture surgery, so any team that obtains McGrady would certainly not get him at his mid-2000s peak. McGrady's $23 million-per-year expiring contract is part blessing and curse, as it limits the list of teams that can possibly trade for him, but also makes him an attractive asset for teams trying to free space for the 2010 offseason. There are also significant character concerns with McGrady, as his stay in Houston has been rocky at best.
The possible suitors: New York - The Knicks have been mentioned off and on in the McGrady talks, and would certainly love to obtain his expiring contract in hopes of landing LeBron James this summer. While it's probable that the Knicks don't have the assets to obtain McGrady, New York would probably be his best destination this year from a fantasy standpoint. He would probably see heavy burn on a depleted team in Mike D'Antoni's system, especially if the trade cost New York some of their young wing players, which it almost assuredly would. With the Knicks, T-Mac would have plenty of opportunity to be a fantasy force for the stretch run.
Washington - The Wizards are another team on which McGrady would thrive, especially if his trade would include the ouster of Caron Butler from D.C. A trade would almost certainly also include the expiring contracts of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Given that the Wiz are already without the services of Gilbert Arenas for an indeterminate amount of time, and with Butler gone, McGrady would by default become the Wizards' top offensive guard option should he even be remotely healthy.
Chicago - The Bulls are apparently in hot pursuit of McGrady, though it?s unclear what they'd offer Houston, or how McGrady would fit in. A trade would include the expiring contracts of Brad Miller and Jerome James, but the third Bull in a trade would be a key to whether McGrady fits in Chicago or not. If it's Joakim Noah, as some expect, then McGrady would probably find himself fighting for minutes with Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and John Salmons, drastically decreasing any fantasy value he may have had.
Other teams - Few teams seem to have the assets to trade for McGrady, though some surprise team looking to blow up their roster might come out of the woodwork for T-Mac. Philadelphia has been mentioned, and I wouldn't be shocked if a squad like Utah or New Orleans obtained McGrady in hopes of picking up his expiring contract. These would almost assuredly be salary cap moves however, and given the situation, McGrady wouldn't hold a ton of fantasy value.
Given that his knee is as healthy as his trainers maintain, what will make or break McGrady's value the most this season is where he ends up. If and when he's traded, look at the depth chart of T-Mac's new team before deciding to pick him off the waiver wire.