The Denver Nuggets, spearheaded by General Manager Masai Ujiri, hoodwinked the NBA last season when they traded long-time Nugget Nene Hilario to the Washington Wizards for league laughingstock, JaVale McGee, but McGee seemed to do well in Denver; however, how will he look in 2012-2013.
McGee was a consistent member of the “Not So Top 10” highlight reel, and at first glance, the trade befuddled many Nuggets fans. However, under closer scrutiny, it was actually a very intelligent move on Uriji’s behalf. He traded away a huge contract, a complacent and injured veteran and received a young “potential” player in return. In addition, it allowed Denver enough wiggle room to re-sign Wilson Chandler.
Last season, McGee appeared in 20 games with five starts and averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, per game with a 61.2% FG percentage. If we look at his stat line per 36 minutes with Denver, it goes something like this: 18 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks with a TRB% (an estimate of the percentage of the available rebounds the player grabbed when he was on the court) 16.2.
Despite how McGee did, or rather didn’t do in Washington, he seemed to prosper in Denver’s system. It may because of the winning culture, it might have been because of George Karl’s no nonsense coaching, or it could have been the environment Denver breeds, but one thing is positive, McGee seemed to improve in Denver.
Critics and supporters saw him do well in Denver, as the Nuggets used his freakishly athletic body to their advantage in the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, which was pushed to seven games. Yes, McGee had various mistakes, but in retrospect, they were minimal in contrast to what Wizards fans were used to seeing.
His shot blocking skills were an asset for Denver as well; he demonstrated a season-high 6 blocks on May 1, 2012 against the Lakers.
On March 21, 2012, he had his first game with Denver as he accumulated 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks and snagged a win for the Nuggets.
Then, there was the postseason, in which, his first playoff game in his NBA career game was less than stellar. He was 0-for-6 from the field and only 50% from the line, but he came through in Game 3 and 5 of the series posting up double-doubles in each game.
In Game 3, he tabulated 16 points on 66.7% shooting, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks. In Game 5, he did even better when he racked up 21 points on 75% shooting, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks; not to mention that was an elimination game for Denver as Lakers had the series 3-1 entering Game 5.
Even though, he didn’t have the production for Game 6, McGee showed Denver he has the initiative to win and to improve his game. He will still be on a learning curve with Denver, but expect more playing time from him.
Last season he averaged, 20.6 minutes and would seem he would increase his minutes to around the 28 minute mark this season. It’s assumed he will be the starting center for Denver, but it’s still unknown if he will share that task with Timofey Mozgov; however, it’s my inclination McGee has that job signed, sealed, and delivered.
My not-so bold prediction for McGee in 2012-2013 is this: he will become inspired from Andre Iguodala’s defense,and improve his own. He will compete with Kenenth Faried for most double-doubles on the team, and give Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin a run for his money for dunk leader in the NBA.