Trading T-Mac

Last Friday, I suggested it was time for the Rockets to trade

Tracy McGrady

. Just to reiterate: I love T-Mac’s game. But I believe his back is a ticking time bomb which will ultimately lead to a premature retirement, thus leaving Houston painfully ill-equipped to maximize the Yao Ming era. Am I being overly pessimistic? It’s quite possible. However, a GM’s job is to buy low and sell high and there’s no question McGrady would fetch a pretty penny on today’s market. But the second T-Mac’s trick back requires another lengthy absence away from the court, you’re selling nothing more than damaged goods.

So just for fun, here are a handful of deals I came up with. All trades work within the confines of the salary cap. You can play along by using ESPN.com’s NBA trade machine if you wish. One final note: It should be noted that I ultimately decided to avoid any deals which involved draft picks. Assuming Greg Oden and Kevin Durant declare, it’s highly unlikely any club would give up its ping pong balls right now because every lottery team is going to wait to see whether or not it can grab that number one or two selection. However, once the order becomes set in stone, we can bring draft day deals into play. For instance, I seriously doubt any club would deal Durant (and the other players necessary to make the trade work within the constraints of the cap) for T-Mac. But what if a team (like Seattle) secured the #8 pick, drafted Mike Conley Jr. and then offered Ray Allen (or Rashard Lewis, if you prefer) as well as the rights to Conley? I’m not saying this would happen, but merely illustrating how many more options will become available once we figure out who’s drafting where. So that’s why we’re excluding the exchange of draft choices for this particular exercise. Anyway, on with the show.

Trade #1

Houston sends Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas (or Brendan Haywood, take your pick) and DeShawn Stevenson

Analysis: The Rockets finally take care of their point guard position, even though Agent Zero isn’t a true point. They also add some size up front and Stevenson provides three point shooting and defense in the hole McGrady leaves behind at the two spot.

Why the Wizards would do this deal: Let’s face it, their three-headed monster of Arenas, Butler and Jamison wasn’t exactly leading them to the promised land. McGrady’s unselfish style of play might help them climb the ladder, especially in the weak Eastern Conference. Also, the Wiz rid themselves of either Thomas or Haywood; a pair of players who despise one another.

Trade #2

Houston sends Tracy McGrady to Seattle for Ray Allen and Earl Watson

Analysis: The Rockets gain one of the NBA’s preeminent marksmen in the silky-smooth Allen who would ensure defenses pay for doubling Yao down low. Also, you have to believe a bulldog defender like Watson would thrive under JVG. On the downside, Allen is 31 and he’s no iron man either. You could substitute free agent-to-be and hometown boy, Rashard Lewis for Allen, but what would the Sonics do with a pair of 2 guards in T-Mac and Jesus Shuttlesworth? The truth is, unless draft picks come into play, Seattle is just not a good trade partner for Houston right now. So I’ll save you the trouble by going ahead and vetoing this deal before it even gets off the ground.

Trade #3

Houston sends Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert

Analysis: You have to think Houston would do this deal in a nanosecond. Iguodala is a stud-in-waiting who can do just about anything you’d want a basketball player to do offensively and defensively. Miller is a highly underrated point guard who knows how to run an offense. And Dalembert would give the Rockets’ front court some much-needed depth and athleticism that would especially come in handy against teams like Phoenix who currently have no problem running Yao and the rest of the plodding Rockets right out of the gym.

Why the Sixers would do this deal: Umm, that’s the problem. True, Sixers’ GM, Billy King, is one of the league’s worst. But even he can’t be this dumb. Two months ago, maybe Philly would have listened. But the 76ers have been playing inspired ball of late and you have to think King wants to keep this core together. The only way this deal goes through is if Philadelphia is desperate to rid itself of Dalembert’s exorbitant contract, especially in light of the fact that Philly will need wiggle room if it intends to keep all three first round choices coming its way this year. The other angle: Perhaps the Sixers are desperate for star power after dealing Iverson away earlier this season. Still, I just don’t see them signing off on this one. Too bad.

Trade #4

Houston sends Tracy McGrady to Boston for Paul Pierce and Delonte West or Rajon Rondo

Analysis: A simple deal that would be explored only if both teams felt their superstars needed a change of scenery. Boston may feel that way about Paul Pierce, especially if the former Jayhawk were to tell Danny Ainge that he’s tired of losing and isn’t willing to wait out the Celtics’ youth movement. Then again, why would T-Mac be any more patient? Still, I’d love this trade as a Rockets’ fan since Houston would lose none of the productivity McGrady currently provides and be the proud new owners of a young, up-and-coming point guard.

Trade #5

Houston sends Tracy McGrady to Charlotte for Raymond Felton, Sean May and Gerald Wallace in a sign-and-trade

Analysis: I’m sure by now you know what I’m after: An upgrade at point guard, a quality swing man and front court depth. This deal gives you all three. One caveat: Wallace is an absolute beast on both ends when healthy, but he’s never once made it through an entire season unscathed. And the injury/dependability issue is the entire reason we’re talking about trading McGrady in the first place, right?

Why the Bobcats would do this deal: Charlotte has played the expansion game very well so far. They’ve quietly accrued a boatload of young talent, all the while saving money and waiting for their moment to pounce on some big names. Make no mistake, that moment is coming very soon. Even if the Bobcats were to acquire T-Mac, they’d still have enough room under the cap to reel-in another big money free agent. And don’t forget, Charlotte will also be a player in the lottery this summer, too. Giving up Felton and Wallace would hurt, but not if they traded for McGrady, signed Chauncey Billups (who will hit the market this summer) and secured the rights to a top 5 pick.

Final thoughts: So what do you think? Obviously, there are plenty more potential deals out there, but I figured that was a good starting point. Yes, I realize the Rockets have won two in a row and now sit a half game in front of Utah for home court in the West. And, yes, I realize T-Mac has played a vital role not only in those two victories, but in Houston’s entire season to date. Remember, my issue is with Tracy’s back, not his game. Admittedly, any move of this magnitude comes with a healthy amount of risk. But let’s see what’s out there. Who knows? It might be the move that makes 2008 a banner year. -- Jason Friedman

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