The Denver Nuggets are going all-in with center JaVale McGee. The franchise made multiple moves in the offseason to solidify his new role on the Nuggets.
First step: fire head coach George Karl.
The Nuggets’ front office became frustrated with the amount of playing time coach Karl gave McGee in 2012-13. McGee, who signed a four-year, $44 million contract last offseason, only averaged 18.1 minutes per game in his first full season with the Nuggets. In 2010-11 McGee saw 20.6 minutes per games in 20 games after the Nuggets acquired him from the Washington Wizards. The Wizards gave McGee around 27 minutes per game before trading him.
After finishing the season with a franchise-record 57 wins, many were surprised of the firing of Karl, the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year, on June 6. One of the primary reasons Karl didn’t return was because of the differences between him and McGee, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported.
The seven-foot, 252-pound center had flashes of brilliance last season. However, McGee also had his fair share of bonehead plays. He is a walking highlight and blooper reel. He has blamed his recent lack of development on the amount of playing time that Karl gave him.
McGee has incredible athleticism. The center is best known for his vicious blocking abilities and monster dunks off alley-oops from Andre Miller. The 25-year-old averaged 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and two blocks in his limited role last season.
The second step for the Nuggets: eliminate McGee’s current roster competition.
Last season, McGee lost most of his playing time to starting center Kosta Koufos. The front office immediately addressed the issue by acting aggressively. The Nuggets traded Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2013 NBA Draft for Darrell Arthur and the No. 55 pick. Koufos started in all 81 games last season, averaging eight points, seven rebounds and one block per game in 22 minutes per game.
In his first post-draft interview with the media as vice president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly made it clear that McGee will have significant playing time.
“I think that it was unfair to the three centers that we had. It’s hard at times, we can cannibalize each other,” Connelly said. “But that wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was to find a guy more complementary (Arthur) to JaVale and (Kenneth) Faried.”
The final step the Nuggets took: drafting a young prospective center in the draft.
With the 55th pick in their hands, the Nuggets acquired the draft rights of international player Joffery Lauvergne. Lauvergne, at 6-foot-11 and 225 pounds, is an athletic power forward from France. He has a very strong post game and can make great plays around the rim. The forward could easily transition to the center position if he gets stronger and puts on a little weight. The 21-year-old will play in Europe for at least one more season to continue developing.
By acquiring Lauvergne, the Nuggets have shown McGee that if he doesn’t produce this season, they have an option post 2014 playoffs. The pressure is on for McGee in 2013-14. This is his season to prove his worth to the Nuggets’ front office.