Denver Nuggets player reviews: JaVale McGee

Athletic center made impact after being acquired from Washington Wizards
by Aaron Lopez

With the 2011-12 season in the books and 2012-13 approaching, is taking a closer at the team’s primary rotation players and how they fared during a challenging 66-game schedule. Denver assistant coach John Welch was kind enough to provide candid assessments, which reflect the views of the Nuggets coaching staff as a whole.

Today’s featured player is center JaVale McGee, who made the most of a fresh start in Denver after being acquired from the Washington Wizards as part of a three-team trade on March 15.

Though he was primarily a starter with the Wizards, McGee made an impact off the bench in 15 of 20 regular-season games for the Nuggets. With Denver, he averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20.6 minutes.

McGee also enjoyed breakout performances during his first career playoff appearance. He had 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots in a Game 3 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, and followed that with 21 points and 14 rebounds in a Game 5 win.

Denver fell to the Lakers in seven games, but McGee later called his two months with the Nuggets “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in basketball.”

The Nuggets enjoyed the experience as well, and eventually signed the 24-year-old to a four-year contract in July.

With a new deal in hand, McGee went to work, spending several weeks with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Considered one of the most athletic big men in the NBA, McGee focused on improving his footwork and touch around the basket.

The offseason work will be put to practical use as McGee competes with Timofey Mozgov for a spot in the starting lineup. McGee and veteran point guard Andre Miller developed a nice chemistry off the bench last season, and coach George Karl will undoubtedly have them on the floor together plenty again in 2012-13.

John Welch’s Evaluation
“The thing that we’re always impressed with is just his athleticism and his ability to move. Defensively, he impacted the game for us by protecting the basket. He also was important running the floor. There’s not many guys his size who can run like he can and who can finish like he can.”

Summer Improvements
“The next step with him will be his post-up game. I don’t think that’s something we need right away, but as he progresses, that’s going to be his feature. He was working at Hakeem’s gym this summer. If he continues to improve, he’s really going to impact games for us at both ends of the floor.”

Two Words That Best Describe McGee
"Physical freak.”

Game to Remember
In his Denver debut, McGee made a memorable first impression at Pepsi Center. With the Nuggets trailing the Detroit Pistons by three points, Arron Afflalo scored on a driving layup with 5.6 seconds left and went to the line to complete the three-point play. Afflalo missed the ensuing free throw, but McGee grabbed the rebound and dunked home the go-ahead basket. McGee finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.

Stat That Bears Re-Tweeting
10 – Consecutive games to end the season in which McGee shot at least .500 from the field. McGee made 52 of 77 field goals (.675) during that stretch and the Nuggets compiled an 8-2 record. Overall, McGee shot a career-best .556 from the field.

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