Still just 24 years old and playing in his fourth NBA season, JaVale McGee is only scratching the surface of his potential after averaging 11 points (54% FG), 8.4 boards, and 2.5 blocks in just 27:30 minutes/per over the the last two seasons with the Washington Wizards. We’ll never know whether his immense potential would have ever been fully tapped and realized in Washington, but like many others I have a feeling the deadline deal that rescued him from that dysfunctional (and directionless) franchise and plopped him smack in the middle of the young-and-fun-to-watch Denver Nuggets just might be the best thing that happens to the freakishly long seven-footer.
His impact was immediate and sizable in his first game as a Nugget, as he came off the bench for 24 minutes against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night and racked up 15 points, 7 boards, 3 blocks, and 1 steal, including a high-difficulty alley-oop pass from half court and a game-winning slam dunk off a missed Afflalo free throw.
The solid, stable coaching staff in place should pay dividends in the development of his raw offensive game, while the hard-working and generally focused core of Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried (Manimal!), Danilo Gallinari (somewhat of a lost season for this kid, unfortunately, thanks to recurring injuries), Wilson Chandler (welcome back), and Arron Afflalo figures to rub off. McGee’s unbelievable length and athleticism is a wonderful match for this uptempo offense, and his much-needed shot-blocking talents (about 2.5/per over past two seasons) help shore up the glaring weakness that is current starting center Timofey “Posterize Me” Mozgov in the middle.
You don’t need any sportsbook review to know Mozgov won’t be starting in the middle much longer, however. It’s hard to say how quickly George Karl will fully commit to McGee at center–it’s entirely possible, in fact, he comes off the bench for the rest of the season as the Nuggets’ impressive depth allows Karl plenty of room to tinker with his starting lineup and rotation based on matchups.
Come opening day of the 2012/13 season, however, McGee will firmly be “the guy”, and hopefully be flaunting something beyond just the dunk on offense–as well as a new contract with his rookie deal that’ll pay roughly $3.5 million next season is set to expire. Denver acquired McGee for a reason, though (okay, they also wanted to dump Nene’s bloated contract), and I fully expect him to be taken care of if not this offseason then sometime during next.
I already liked the Nuggets’ direction and pool of young, internally developed talent–McGee makes both that much stronger.