Raptors news: Isiah Thomas shares vision in drafting Tracy McGrady
Prior to his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction, Tracy McGrady has no rings to show for, but what he does have is a legacy of a super-athlete that was well ahead of his time.
Coming into the NBA at a time where the shooting guard position was at its peak and Michael Jordan had won nine of the last 11 scoring titles, McGrady was lean, spry, 6-foot-8 well-oiled machine ready to carve his path to stardom.
Isiah Thomas, who had been the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the expansion Toronto Raptors for three years after retiring from his playing career, took a shot by drafting the Florida native with the ninth pick of the 1997 NBA Draft.
“I knew I was drafting a player that had a chance to be exceptional in the NBA,” Thomas told Michael Lee of The Vertical, recounting how the likes of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant were considered the more risky high school propositions the draft had to offer at that time. “I knew McGrady had the skill set to make the leap. Tracy really could do it all. He could pass, he could shoot, but he was a willing passer. He wasn’t a passer looking to fill the stat sheet, although he did fill the stat sheet with his play. He played the game in a very unselfish way.”
As he slowly started to show flashes of brilliance under his cousin Vince Carter, McGrady signed with the Orlando Magic, where his skill set began to take off and averaged 26.8 points in his first year with the team.
T-Mac would go on to win two straight scoring titles with the Magic (2003, 2004) and later morph his game into a tandem with Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets.
While he was unable to get past the first round of the postseason throughout his career, his dynamic as a scorer, rebounder, and facilitator has broken ground for other tall and lanky athletes with a versatile game like Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo — athletes that now make part of the conversation for Most Valuable Player.