Denver Nuggets Player Review: JaVale McGee

Athletic center was key member of high-flying, productive second unit
by Aaron Lopez

Patience is a requirement with many of life’s big investments.

Last summer, the Denver Nuggets made a long-term commitment to center JaVale McGee, signing him to a multiyear contract to be their big man of the future.

McGee arrived in training camp as a candidate to be Denver’s starting center but ultimately played 79 games off the bench as part of an athletic second unit that was among the NBA’s best.

Frequently converting lobs from Andre Miller and protecting the rim defensively, McGee averaged 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.99 blocks in 18.1 minutes per game. His .575 field-goal percentage was a career-best and ranked third in the NBA.

McGee’s reserve role remained the same for the first four games of the playoffs, but he moved into the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6 of Denver’s series against the Golden State Warriors.

Kosta Koufos, who started 81 games at center last season, is under contract for two more years, but the opportunity for McGee to increase his role certainly will be there in 2013-14.

“I know JaVale would like to start,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We will push him to work hard this summer and help get him into the position where that could be a possibility.”

Whereas Koufos is considered the more fundamental player, McGee is explosive in the open court and can be extremely effective when playing within Denver’s defensive concepts.

McGee worked extensively on his footwork and low-post game last summer. In the coming months, he will have plenty of people investing their time to help Denver's long-term investment pay additional dividends next season.

“He proved that he can play big minutes and he should deserve a little bit more,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “I’m going to be with him this summer and try to make him better.”

March 27 at San Antonio Spurs
Squaring off against future Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan, McGee scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked three shots and added two steals. The performance helped put the Nuggets in position to steal a tough road game, but Denver eventually fell to the Spurs 100-99.

McGee shot at least 60 percent from the field (minimum five field-goal attempts) 30 times during the regular season. In 19 of those games, he made at least 70 percent of his attempts

2013-14 OUTLOOK
McGee likely will enter training camp as the odds-on favorite to be Denver’s starting center, but it won’t be handed to him by any means. Defensively, he needs to improve his pick-and-roll coverage and stay disciplined on pump fakes. The Nuggets don’t run many plays into the low-post, so McGee’s best opportunities on offense will continue to come in transition and on the offensive glass.