When the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Mitch McGary with pick #21 in the 2014 NBA Draft, plenty of pundits scratched their heads. With plenty of talent still on the board, this seemed like an odd pick. After all, McGary spent most of his last college season with Michigan on the sidelines with a back injury and had also run foul of the NCAA with marijuana charges. Hardly the type of “character” the Thunder usually select.
In just the Thunder’s third summer league game though, McGary took his first steps in repaying the faith of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise and winning over its fans.
Mitch McGary was superb as he filled the stat sheet to the tune of 18 points and 13 rebounds. He also chipped in with some dimes, a couple of blocks and showed effort and intensity that couldn’t be matched by anyone else on the floor. All in all – he looks EXACTLY like a Thunder type of guy.
Highly touted out of High School, McGary had all the tools to be a terrific basketball player and now, on a summer league roster in the NBA as a rookie, he is showing the heart to become a valuable professional.
There is little point in denying that this might be the last season for veteran and stellar Thunder forward Nick Collison. An OKC stalwart and blue collar workhorse, Collison’s importance can never be denied. His heart, energy, intensity and effort, along with his willingness to get his hands dirty and play his role has endeared himself to the Thunder fans and franchise. But even Nick can’t out-hustle father time.
With Mitch McGary now in a Thunder uniform, OKC have taken the blueprint set by Collison and found themselves a replacement. McGary will be able to develop slowly and will be able to learn everything possible from Collison as the two of them work together for season 2014-15. Just as Steven Adams has developed more quickly than expected (partly thanks to veteran Kendrick Perkins), McGary has landed in a perfect situation. His expectations will be managed as he takes the time to learn and develop from a revered professional.
The latest summer league performance though, has fans salivating. Perhaps McGary can hustle his way into a rotation spot on the Thunder frontline as early as the start of the new NBA season. He clearly wants to make the most of the opportunity and the Thunder are obviously very high on McGary as a person and as a talent. From his mid-range jump shot, to his rebounding and positioning, the Thunder can use the former Wolverine’s skill set.
Time will tell if McGary can emulate the rookie season of Steven Adams and carve out a Collison-esque role on this Thunder team – but you wouldn’t want to bet against him.