Forget about Dwight Howard’s trade demands. Don’t worry about where Deron Williams is going to end up playing. Try not to lose sleep over Roy Hibbert being offered a max deal. Instead, turn your attention to the most intriguing player in this year’s free agency class, JaVale McGee.
For those of you who have followed the interesting (to say the least) four year NBA expedition of Mr. McGee, I probably don’t need to enlighten you as to his past exploits. During his 3 ½ year stint with the Washington Wizards, McGee was responsible for some of the more head scratching plays in recent league history (if you don’t believe me, check out the You Tube clip below).
Here’s the thing though, JaVale McGee can play. At just 24 years of age, McGee’s best years would appear to be ahead of him. You could argue (I will at least), that aside from Dwight Howard, McGee is the most “freakishly gifted” big man in the league today. Unfortunately for McGee, his downfall has always been his lack of his consistency (both mentally and physically). Even though he was fairly productive with the Wizards (11 PPG 8.8 RPG 2010-12), the organization grew weary of his juvenile antics. I think it’s pretty safe to say that his behavior was the driving force behind the Wizards decision to ultimately trade the center. Turns out, this was probably the best thing that could’ve happened for McGee (and the Wizards for that matter).
Something seemed to have clicked for McGee following his trade from the Washington Wizards to the Denver Nuggets back in March. McGee’s mental lapses were far less noticeable once he was acquired by the Nuggets. I’m not sure if it was the veteran presence of players like Andre Miller and Al Harrington, the coaching wisdom of George Karl, or the simple fact that McGee knew it was time to grow up. Whatever the case may be, once in Denver McGee appeared to move past some of the immaturity that had hindered him in Washington.
During the Nuggets opening round playoff series versus the Lakers, McGee showed flashes of brilliance. I remember watching his Game 5 performance at Staples Center (21 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, 75% from the field) and thinking to myself, where in the world has this guy been hiding? His performance that night no doubt made NBA GMs take notice. Bottom line, there are only a handful of big men in the game that can have the type of impact that McGee showed during the Nuggets Game 5 win that night.
McGee’s highlights from Game 5
So what exactly are you getting with JaVale McGee? Better yet, why would an NBA franchise gamble on him? For starters, athletic seven footers don’t grow on trees (at least I don’t believe they do). Adding one (or keeping one in Denver’s case) could be vital toward the development of any franchise (this excludes you Washington). Next, McGee has the unique ability to run the floor surprisingly well for a player his size. A franchise with an up tempo offense would benefit from “a big” who can consistently beat his defender down the court on transition opportunities (which McGee can). Also, when he puts his mind to it, he is an upper echelon rebounder (7.8 season average is not an indication of how good he can be). In that first round series versus the Lakers, McGee compiled 14 rebounds or more on three separate occasions. Next, McGee can alter the game on the defensive end. His wingspan coupled with his quick explosion off the floor, has always enabled him to alter or turn back shots. He has averaged over two blocks per game over his last three seasons in the league. And finally, McGee’s biggest skill set may be his explosiveness in the pick and roll game (a quality that he improved upon immensely with Denver). His ability to set picks up high, use his speed to cut toward the basket, and consequently finish near the rim (with ferocity I mind you), simply cannot be understated.
In the coming days, someone is going to offer JaVale McGee a substantial contract based solely off his potential. Front office personnel, the coaching staff, and fans from that respective team will all be asking themselves the same question, is this a gamble? The answer is yes, but the gamble isn’t nearly as big as it once was thought to be.
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