When Mitch McGary steps on the floor in the 2015 Orlando Pro Summer League he will have the rare opportunity for a "do-over". With Cameron Payne, the Thunder's lottery pick in the recent NBA Draft, sidelined with a fractured finger, McGary, the Thunder's 1st round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and lone player guaranteed a roster spot with the Thunder next season, will take center stage for the second summer in a row.
After undergoing lower back surgery five months before the draft, Sam Presti's decision to take a chance on the Michigan sophomore was a surprise not only to Thunder fans but to many experts as well. Even though McGary draft stock had risen to lottery levels after his run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, his recent injury raised questions about his health and whether he should declare for the draft at all.
Let's rewind to last summer for just a moment:
McGary alleviated much of the concern about lingering back problems in July after averaging 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, including the 18 point, 13 rebound outing against Brooklyn highlighted above. Unfortunately, health questions about McGary arose anew when he fractured the second metatarsal in his left foot in the Thunder's opening pre-season game in October. In December, those concerns rose when the Thunder announced that McGary would miss yet another two to three weeks while recovering from periostitis, or inflammation, in his left Tibia in December and turned to all out alarm when that condition lingered until the middle of February.
McGary finally made what many consider his "unofficial" official Thunder début in the Thunder's 51st game of the season on February 8th, 2015 against the Los Angeles Clippers. McGary played a great game. His 19 point, 10 rebound double-double gem surprised everyone, especially when you consider he entered that game with a grand total of 84 minutes of pro experience, 76 of those in the summer league. As an encore, McGary recorded a second double-double on the road the following night.
With the injury bug running rampant through the Thunder roster and a mid-season trade that revamped almost half of the rotation, McGary struggled with consistency the rest of the season. However, it is important to note that McGary played significant minutes in only 2 games in which Kevin Durant also played, February 8th and February 9th..
Fast forward to the present.
The Thunder go into the summer league with a new coach and high expectations for success next season. McGary is excited and ready to get that show going. On June 17th McGary wrote this message on Twitter to NewsOK's Darnell Mayberry:
"Dropping weight and gettin in shape! Just wait for summer league."
With 3 months to focus on conditioning and a seemingly limitless level of enthusiasm, McGary will enter Summer League play with his throttle set wide open. A professional player doesn't often get a shot at a do-over season and Mitch McGary is not likely to squander the opportunity.