If you asked any person during Mitch McGary’s freshman season at Michigan — primarily during the NCAA Tournament — if they could ever envision a time that he’d be a piece easily replaced by Joffrey Lauvergne, you’d be laughed out of the room. Yet, here we are.
Word on the mean NBA Twitter streets is that McGary is Oklahoma City’s odd man out after Sam Presti pulled some magic out of his scarf, and acquired yet another big man in Lauvergne to be on the Thunder roster:
Possible ripple-effect of the trade: There's a pretty good chance Mitch McGary isn't going to play another game with the Thunder.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) August 30, 2016
Why is McGary the odd man out? Because, well, he is a combination of not that good and a fellow who happens to get busted violating league rules from time to time.
Focusing on his play first, the former Michigan Wolverines performer has been in the NBA for two years now. Wait…no. That’s not entirely accurate. He’s played in parts of two NBA seasons. The reality of the situation is far more bleak.
He’s a somewhat naturally gifted big man (relative to only certain areas of his game), but he hasn’t been able to stay on OKC’s roster long enough to do anything of consequence. Combine that with the fact that when he was on the roster he didn’t do much of worth to warrant keeping him around.
While it does traditionally take big men longer to develop, which should give McGary at least a little benefit of the doubt, over the course of 52 combined games in those two seasons he has averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Those counting stats aren’t totally fair to the player, as getting as little run as he has — 10.7 minutes per outing — doesn’t exactly provide a great sample size. Then again, there’s probably a reason two different head coaches never really felt the need to give him serious time on the hardwood. You know, probably because he isn’t as good as some think, and good players don’t often tend to ride the bench.
There are more concerns here. Whether it was the coaching change or something else entirely, he got even less time during his second year in the league. His numbers also regressed, the most important of them being his field goal percentage dropping to 48 percent, and there were no clear signs of a better tomorrow for McGary.
We have yet to even begin to discuss his history with injuries. Fair or not, the perception of McGary is that his body fails him regularly. He had back issues as a sophomore at Michigan that required back surgery. During his rookie season he fractured the second metatarsal of his left foot. That same season he was sidelined with periostitis (inflammation) in his left tibia.
But wait, there’s more.
While we can argue the stupidity of the rule, and it is stupid, McGary has a habit of not taking Stephen A. Smith’s advice:
Dating back to his college days, the power forward has a history of not being able to stay off the weed.
After getting popped for marijuana in college, McGary actually thought it was no big deal, which would normally be a red flag for NBA franchises. Not that they actually care if players are lighting up, but that he seemed indifferent about the entire ordeal (via VICE Sports):
“I ended up getting injured and then having this little, uh, suspension that forced me to leave,” McGary said. “Overall I think it was good for me. It was a learning moment, and the way I handled it was mature and responsible, so I think people actually took my side and went against the NCAA rather than being like, ‘Hey, you’re some druggie.'”
The learning moment was a big-time suspension handed down by the NCAA, an inept governing body. The type so loathed that McGary was correct, as most people sided with him over the people who prevent the players bringing in all the money from having any of it:
“I get people on Twitter and Instagram, still comment and stuff. ‘Hey, you did drugs.’ Well, I did. Whatever. So what. I learned from it and it was in college. … It was the opposite of harming somebody.”
The idea here, “learning from it,” would be great if he actually did. Because he hasn’t. Instead, he once again broke one of his own rules — he said in that same interview that the primary thing is “just don’t get caught” — as he got popped again for marijuana use this summer, which led to a suspension being handed down.
So, yes, his days at OKC are probably done. For a variety of deserved reasons too, but the biggest of which is that he’s just not that good of a player to keep around. When you couple that with the fact he’s not a good enough player to keep around to warrant his sometimes iffy decisions, Presti moving on from the McGary “error” makes all the sense in the world.
For the Thunder, plainly put, he’s not worth it. Not his play or decision-making.
As for McGary personally, which is the bigger story here, his next steps are going to be of great importance to his NBA career. A ho-hum NBA talent who has spent more time in the D-League than on the actual Thunder roster can ill-afford any more missteps. Oh, and he also needs to get better, which is the biggest aspect of us discussing him in NBA terms.
Anyway, another NBA team will most certainly be willing to take a flyer on him. After all, 6’10” humans don’t grow on trees. And while still incredibly young, McGary is going to enter his third season in the NBA having far more to prove than he’s had at any other point of his professional career.
Honestly, removing the marijuana stuff from the conversation (since, sincerely, it isn’t that big of a deal), McGary might just not be good enough player to be in the NBA. He’s probably not an NBA player at all.
But if he is, and we’ve just yet to see it, a heck of a lot of good fortune needs to fall in place for him, especially since he’s been working against himself dating back to his sophomore year in college.