While just a season ago JaVale McGee was a nightly fixture on Shaqtin’ A Fool, the 7’0 skywalker has had the better part of a season under elite head coach George Karl and a summer of training with the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon to knock the nonsense out of him.
Well, that and the fact signing a four-year, $44 million dollar deal is going to put a pep in anyone’s step.
Fortunately, in limited minutes, McGee is living up to his tremendous ceiling for the Denver Nuggets so far this season. He ranks 8th in offensive rebounding rate, right behind teammate Kenneth Faried who ranks 4th. Defensively, McGee ranks 11th in blocks per game among centers, despite ranking 29th in minutes per game at 19.3.
McGee also ranks 20th in field goal percentage at 54% a clip, and has established some solid instincts in the pick and roll with Andre Miller.
So while bringing him off the bench is entirely understandable, as he’s still relatively raw around the basket and is often guilty of forcing the issue. It doesn’t change what a catalyst he is in transition for Denver’s offense, as his combination of athleticism and length are unparallelled in the open court.
For example, last season McGee was averaging six more minutes a game than this season. And if you look at his stat line of 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 56FG% and 46FT% with extra that time, his increased production is almost seamlessly relative to this seasons.
In other words, McGee has already proven that there are really no repercussions to giving him more playing time. Well, other than the fact his free throw percentage has actually seen a colossal uptick from last season to the tune of 82%.
Yes, McGee is still rough around the edges. And no, he shouldn’t necessarily be playing 30 minutes a night.
But if you’re going to pay a guy with the potential to be one of the leagues premiere centers 10 million dollars a year, you have to realize he’s not going to develop on the bench.
Greatness takes time. Or at least more than 19 minutes.