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2015-16 Thunder Player Grades: Mitch McGary does a disappearing act in year two

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Mitch McGary surprised most with his stellar play as a rookie, but suffered a sophomore slump in 2015-16.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

FULL NAME: Mitchell Neil William McGary

NICKNAME: "Mitch," "White Chocolate," "Chubbs," "White Thunder," "McDouble"

CONTRACT STATUS: McGary is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2016-17, with a team option to keep him in OKC through 2019. If his option isn't picked up, McGary will be a restricted free agent in 2018.

NOTABLE FACTOID: McGary is a unicyclist and used to do his childhood paper route while riding a unicycle.


McGary was drafted 21st overall by the Thunder in the 2014 NBA Draft. After being inactive for 48 of his first 50 games as a rookie, he had a memorable stretch of play to close the season.

With big man after big man lost to injury, OKC gave McGary a shot and he took full advantage. He started off with back-to-back double doubles against the Los Angeles Clippers (19 points and 10 rebounds)and Denver Nuggets (17 points and 10 rebounds). Almost three weeks later he would post a career-high 20 points against the Portland Trailblazers.

As the Thunder continued to make a push for the eighth seed, McGary would teeter between 15-20 minutes nightly. The potential flashed, but McGary was porous on the defensive end. As good as he was offensively he was the reciprocal on defense. However, by year's end it appeared McGary would supplant Thunder lifer Nick Collison as the fourth big in the team's rotation.


McGary was amazing in the Orlando Summer League. His ability to do a little of everything made him the star of an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was without both Cam Payne and Josh Huestis.

McGary still had his troubles on defense, but it at least seemed his awareness had grown from his rookie season. It was a rarity to see McGary pull down a rebound and then lead the fast-break on the other end.

The talk of the preseason was how new Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan liked to use bigs who could make decisions with the ball; which fit McGary's playing style to a "T." Following his successful rookie outburst there were only expectations of improvement from the Michigan big in year two.


A promising training camp and preseason were lost after McGary was diagnosed with a concussion after colliding with then Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes in an attempt to grab a loose ball during a preseason game.

McGary was out for a few weeks, and during that stretch he missed valuable time becoming acclimated to Donovan's system. When he returned to action in November he was too far behind to catch up.  After two games of over 10 minutes of playing time, McGary was relegated to the end of the bench.

After playing 30 of the team's final 32 games a year before, McGary would finish with a total of 20 games under his belt in his second stint with the Thunder.  By comparison, he played 26 games for the Thunder's NBA Development League team (Oklahoma City Blue). The time in the D-League wasn't a complete loss as McGary turned in solid numbers, 14.65 PPG and 8.77 RPG in 25 minutes a game. However, McGary was supposed to be a contributor for the Thunder, not the Blue.

To make things worse, he was away from the team for two weeks near the end of the year for an undisclosed leave of absence. McGary would only say it was a personal matter and "[he would] like to leave [his absence] as a private matter, and that's it. [He would] appreciate if [the media would] respect that."


A weird year only turned weirder in the playoffs for McGary. He was inactive for all but one of the Thunder's playoff games--Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Though mostly inactive, McGary remained an enthusiastic team supporter. He and Payne were OKC's most colorful sideline celebrators of the post season. Throughout the DNP-CD's it appeared McGary was fully committed to the team and was in decent shape, which were both positives after a disappointing regular season.


Seeing as McGary took an extended leave of absence from the team, there aren't many games/moments to choose from. However, when McGary returned to the Thunder he did play a role in their opening round playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks. Things had become testy between the two squads after Charlie Villanueva and Justin Anderson decided to interrupt the beloved Cam Payne/Russell Westbrook pregame dance routine. The very next game McGary accompanied Payne and Westbrook to the scorer's table as their "muscle" to make sure no Mavericks players decided to intervene again.


This next season is a prove-it year for McGary. If he can't stay healthy or show progression in his development, then it is likely we will see the last of McGary in an OKC uniform-- whether it be for the Thunder or the Blue.

McGary has the skills--shooting, passing, athleticism--that can be effective in Billy Donovan's system. It will be on McGary to put it all together if he wants to remain with the Thunder for the future. However, the draft night deal to ship out Serge Ibaka might mean McGary's window to make an impact is dwindling. Even though losing Ibaka takes a chunk away from OKC's big rotation, bringing in Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Domantas Sabonis means there will be even more depth and competition to replace Serge's production. Ilyasova brings the three-point threat that Serge was, but nobody outside of Steven Adams can hold a candle to Ibaka as a defensive big man

Hopefully McGary can team with Payne, Sabonis and Huestis in the Orlando Summer League, and the four young bucks can start to gel and carry momentum into the 2016-17 regular season. McGary will have to show he has the mental fortitude and defensive awareness to play in the league or he could be the next Thunder player to be shown the door. It took a bit longer than expected for Sam Presti's acquisitions of Adams, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter and Andre Roberson to yield positive results.Perhaps this is the case for McGary as well. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the 2016-17 season begins and McGary has found himself with a different franchise. At the moment he's the only young trade chip that Presti possesses.