The Denver Nuggets made a bold move by firing coach George Karl after a 57-win season in 2012-2013, but a first-round playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors likely sealed his fate and led to the franchise’s decision to go a new direction. In Karl’s place is Brian Shaw, a long-time assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers and former NBA player that will have his first opportunity as a head coach.
The change of coach should do wonders for Nuggets’ center JaVale McGee, who was routinely in Karl’s doghouse and saw limited playing time last season (18.1 minutes per game) while not starting at all until the postseason. His per-game averages from last year do not leap off the stat sheet (9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, two blocks), but his per-36 minute averages (18 points, 9.6 rebounds and a league-leading 3.9 blocks) point to significant upside if McGee were to get more playing time.
Shaw has suggested he wants to make McGee a focal point of Denver’s offense, and he himself has said he has more to offer offensively than he has gotten an opportunity to show thus far in his career. So it’s fair to assume he will shoot the ball more (6.7 field goal attempts per game last season), though there is a fine line between more shots being a good thing and reduced efficiency for a player with McGee’s skill set.
McGee averaged 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game during the 2011-2012 season while starting 45 of 61 games and playing just over 25 minutes per game for the Nuggets and Washington Wizards. Those averages are a solid baseline projection for McGee for the coming season, but if he stays out of foul trouble more often than not and maintains starter-level minutes (30-35 per game?) he has significant upside for fantasy basketball owners. He should be a solid contributor in points, rebounds and blocked shots, but a dismal free throw percentage (59 percent last season, just over 58 percent for his career) hampers his fantasy value in leagues that use that category, since he is virtually certain to shoot more from the line this season (2.4 attempts per game last year).
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.