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Bad news, Tracy: You probably aren't getting traded

Yesterday, the Rockets acknowledged the rumors - they will seek to trade Tracy McGrady.  In the interim, McGrady has been given an "indefinite" leave of absence so as not to be a distraction to the team.  As a result of this announcement, the NBA trade machine has gone into hyperdrive by wannabe GMs around the world (and, presumably, by Daryl Morey himself). 

The McGrady dilemma, however, is like a real-world mathematics problem.  But it's more of a non-linear differential equation with unknown variables exceeding the amount of known equations.  It most definitely isn't a basic arithmetic problem.  No, there are many assumptions that will have to be made that prevent any "solution" to the problem from being simple.

/hey, ma, look!  I just put my applied mathematics degree to use!  In analogy form!!/

Here are a few of these aforementioned variables we need to consider when analyzing a potential Tracy McGrady trade:

  • McGrady's 2009/10 salary is about $23.2M.
  • McGrady's contract expires after this season.
  • McGrady is a 30 year old shooting guard coming off serious knee surgery.
  • McGrady is a whiny bitch.
  • The Rockets do not want to take on bad contracts in return.
  • The Rockets do not want to take on malcontents or disruptive personalities.
  • Anyone who wants to trade for McGrady's expiring contract must likely fall within the parameters of the 125% rule.   
  • Daryl Morey is smarter than all of us.
  • Isiah Thomas, Kevin McHale, Rob Babcock, Billy King and Scott Layden are no longer employed as GMs for any NBA team.
  • The NBA salary cap is going to shrink next summer.  (Rumors are that it may sink below $53M.  And that may be optimistic.)
  • Right now the NBA salary cap is $57.7M.
  • The luxury tax breaking point is $69.92M.
  • The Rockets are already over the NBA salary cap at $74.3M.
  • Just because McGrady's contract expires does notmean that the Rockets (or McGrady's future team) will automatically have $23.2M to spend on free agents next year.
  • Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry also have contracts expiring this summer.  Lowry is, however, a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of just under $3M the Rockets can offer him.
  • Brian Cook is also a free agent, but he's more worthless than Alec Baldwin.
  • The Rockets already have $43.7M committed in salary for next season.  This does not count Lowry's qualifier.  Nor does it take into consideration that Yao has an opt-out clause he can exercise on July 1, 2010.  But all expectations are that Yao will not opt-out.
  • A lot of NBA teams are dead broke.
  • Robert Horry is (probably) not walking through that door.
  • The Rockets will also have to make room to sign whatever 2nd round rookie diamond Daryl Morey unearths this year.

So, when we take all of the above into consideration, it appears far more likely -- and prudent -- that the Rockets just send McGrady on the Iverson/Marbury Expiring Contract Vacation.  The Rockets certainly cannot afford to give Tracy McGrady a buyout.  Nor is McGrady dumb enough to accept anything less than the full value of his contract to gain his freedom to sign with anyone he chooses.  So, a buyout is unlikely, too (at least until after the trading deadline in February - then McGrady may get the itch to play and Morey can use this as leverage).

Besides, who would the Rockets really target in a trade for McGrady?  They aren't going to trade McGrady for any of the 2010 free agents - so don't expect to see Chris BoshDwyane Wade or Amare Stoudemire in a Rockets uniform this spring.  Though, if the Rockets trade McGrady for Shaquille O'Neal or Carlos Boozer -- I quit as a fan.

Chris Paul has been mentioned many times as a potential option.  He may be the *only* player that would make sense for the Rockets to acquire.  The Rockets would almost certainly have to give up Luis Scola and/or Carl Landry (and this would  make me cry), but when you get a chance to acquire Chris Paul - you kinda have to sacrifice some good players to make it work.  I would be on board with this trade wholeheartedly.

Then again, why would New Orleans trade Chris Paul?  The owners need money, yes, but if you trade Chris Paul away - you are basically giving up and saying "we don't want a basketball team in New Orleans anymore."  Taking on an expiring contract like McGrady would be the true equivalent of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Conclusion?  While I love the concept of a Chris Paul trade to pair him with Yao -- I just do not see it happening.  Not this year at least.

What does that leave us?

Well, it means we can't pair McGrady and Brian Cook in a trade together.  It also means that while the Rockets probably will make every effort to trade McGrady - they aren't going to trade him just for the sake of trading him.  If it is in the best interests of the team to let McGrady sit on the sidelines until July, that's precisely what they are going to allow to happen. 

So, you New York Knicks fans trying to pawn off Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry?  Tough luck.  Daryl Morey ain't Isiah Thomas.  Do not expect the Rockets to trade McGrady anytime soon.  Then again, I guess we should never underestimate the idiocy of NBA GMs...