JaVale McGee Scouting Report

Few NBA players are as heavily branded with a reputation as JaVale McGee.  He runs the wrong way.  He tries to dunk from too far away.  He is a knucklehead.  Of course there is more to the story.  He may not be the second coming of a certain Hall of Fame center as George Karl intimated after the game last night, but he is a talented player with a lot going for him.

Searching for a more complete profile I reached out to Kyle Weidie from the TrueHoop Network Wizard’s blog Truth About It.  Kyle was very generous in providing a more in depth summary of McGee than Youtube does, although Youtube is indeed useful as you will see below (I especially encourage you to read about his mom).

Offense

In an ideal world, all of McGee’s offense comes in transition, via lob-passing options in the half court, or through hard work on the offensive boards. In reality, McGee wants to do much more. He wants to shoot jump shots (he has shown nice touch on occasion, but his free-throw shooting is also horrible — down to 50-percent this season from a career 0.598 percentage); he wants to shoot running, fading hooks across the lane (if he didn’t fade and stayed close to the rim, it wouldn’t be such a problem); and he mostly cares about dunking so much that I think he’s no longer capable of truly cherishing the dunk, rather he’s addicted to the next high. McGee has cut down on a big problem Wizards fans have had with him over the years: his full-court dribbling escapades. (You can peep some of the examples collected over the years from here, here, and here.) But that learning, he has shown, doesn’t make him any less capable of enacting spells of selfish, usually panicked, offense.

Defense

Great, great shot blocker. McGee has amazing length and understands timing. He’s also progressed in not falling for pump fakes, which he’s done on very frequent occasions in the past (although, the scouting report still says to pump fake him, always). Problem with McGee’s shot blocking ability is that he’s managed to turn attempts to do so into a selfish act — there’s a reason he leads the league in goaltending calls. He got benched earlier this season for purposely goaltending a Francisco Garcia attempt, or so people thought. “Goaltending? That had nothing to do with it,” coach Randy Wittman said. Basically, the coach said McGee didn’t care to cut off the dribble penetration on pick-and-roll defense, instead deciding to angle and gather his timing for a potential block. Hence, he doesn’t try to defend the team way, rather in his own, stat-padding way; he did the same thing more recently against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. Otherwise, as you can imagine, McGee is a very bad pick-and-roll defender; opponents look for as many chances as they can to expose him in this regard. He also often gets caught watching the ball instead of keeping his head on a defensive swivel. Again, he’s in the constant hunt to block shots, not necessarily to get his team defensive stops; although, the way he can protect the rim can be game changing, but to what end? All part of the frustration that is JaVale McGee.

Teammate

I’ve always heard that McGee was a good locker room guy… he gets along well with his teammates; I know Yi Jianlian liked him according to folks familiar with the locker room scene in D.C., for whatever that is worth. With his teammates, I think McGee is personable, yet likable in the way one might have sympathy for their little brother. At that same time, that little bro can frustrate the hell out of teammates with the dopey things he does. When McGee gets tired, his curve of lost focus slants drastically downward. For someone with a history of asthma, which was not undetected until Flip Saunders came along (McGee also had to get re-accessed and prescribed different medicine for his asthma earlier this season), look out for him to tire easily, especially in Mile High Denver. McGee will be best in small spurts, but even in those instances, the players and coaches around him will have to work extra hard to keep JaVale focused.

Update: March 20, 2012 10:59 PM MSDT – John Wall imploring JaVale McGee to run with him. When that doesn’t happen, confusion ensues and the duo just about stop play, which leads to a turnover due to an aggressive Shelvin Mack. Wall recovers and blocks Mack’s layup attempt on the other end, then he gets on McGee some more about running with him. Wall eventually finds Blatche for an easy lay-in, and then finishes his instructional request to McGee, saying, “Just run, ‘Vale! You want the ball?!”

Mom

Momma McGee, Pam, sat along the baseline near the Wizards’ bench for just about every Washington home game. It once came out that she takes notes on her son’s game so she can go over them with him afterward. Per a Washington Post article on mom and son McGee by Mike Wise in January, it turns out Pam was JaVale’s AAU coach, whom Wise also describes as a “Little League parent.” Other absurdities came out in the article which I later touched on in a post. It wouldn’t deviate far from the truth to think that part of the Wizards’ willingness to trade McGee derived from how much a headache his mom was behind the scenes. But hey, she’s got to look out for the “Future of the NBA,” after all.

Media Relations & Various

JaVale McGee clearly doesn’t like dealing with the media… I can’t exactly blame him given the level of scrutiny (and GIFery) that he has come under, but he has brought it all upon himself. I also suspect that his mom and other “handlers” have conditioned him to be more weary of the media, as opposed to using the media to his benefit and promoting his personal brand. Either way, McGee makes his voice in interviews purposely monotone, a la Shaq, but without the funny quips. He’s usually more akin to a hyperactive 12-year old rather than someone learning how to be comfortable with the press in their mid-20s; this is evidenced by his “uncut” session at this year’s media day. McGee tries to be active via social media — we all remember the “JaVale & Nick Show” from the summer, each attempting to ingest a spoonful of cinnamon in one episode. He is, however, more likely preen for followers on Twitter — simultaneously limiting himself to interactions with his boys and/or gold-diggers/strippers — while displaying minimal doses of personality.

The kid is a difficult book to read, definitely hard to put down (think Washington won’t have some “seller’s remorse” on this one?), and yet you can’t count how many useless pages your ripped out to eat versus how many you’ve ripped out to burn for warmth while stranded in a frozen wasteland, a la the Donner Party.

The JaVale McGee experience… he’s trapped in his mind and doesn’t seem to want to get out. Have fun, Denver!

I would like to extend a big thank you to Kyle for taking the time to inform us about Mr. McGee.  So what do you think Nuggets fans?  Are you more excited or less excited?

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  • smokin nugs

    Its very hard to predict what we are getting, but I tend to be optimistic… The way Nene was playing right now, I think javale will at least be as good if not better on both sides of the court. Nene has been basically invisible this season. No defensive impact and frustrating offensive mistakes (for any stupid attempts javale makes, Nene has a dropped pass, made a bad pass, taken a stupid jump shot (a possession is a possession)). His fast break offense should help us. I would like to think our locker room will help him mature- we have WAY more hard working players than the Wizards. Also, I think he knows that he needs to do his job here or he will see significant reduction in his mins. He has more competition and is playing for a contract.

    I like this trade because it is low pressure- if he shows us he can play unselfish ball and help our team, we keep him, if not, ditch him and it doesn’t matter too much. Ideally, he will start at center and flourish within our system. If he gets tired, I hope GK will not hesitate to put someone else in.

    Overall, I expect he won’t change our team dramatically, but he has far more high end than nene.

  • evan

    I’m more excited. I didn’t know he could shoot!
    -He still rebounds better then Nene, and defends better.
    -but it’s not just McGee, its the free agency opportunities and Wilson Chandler.

    • Alex

      Yeah a big part of this deal was getting Chandler and I am not totally sure if the Chandler thing would have completely worked out without getting rid of Nene’s contract.
      I’m so excited to have Chandler back!!!!!

  • evan

    Also, on a bad team aka, the wizzards, its understandable(not acceptable) to pad your stats a bit rather then try and win, because they’re going to lose anyway more often then not. The Nuggets are a good team, expect him to want to win more, since it will be in sight.

  • Nuggets fan since 1976

    Did anyone watch the Nuggs Mavs game last night or OKC the day before Nena was traded? We were blown out at home and the defense and offense looked horrible for atleast a half in each game. These are the type of games that we were keeping very close even on the road when Nena was in the line up and most of the team was healthy. I am not saying Nena would have allowed us to win either but he brought experience, team cohesivness, and a post presence which would have kept us in both games. I love the Manimal, but he was absolutley out of place so many times while Dirk rained in jumper after jumper. You simply can’t play so many young guys and expect to win in this league. McGee will be a younger version of Bird, and will not fill the void left with Nena gone. In fact give Bird 30 mins a night today and he could easily average 3 blocks a game and plenty of highlight dunks. I hope I am wrong, but all the excitment around McGee’s arrival and Nena’s departure is interesting. As fan I would rather see the Nuggets put their best team out there this year and try and win while they were still in the thick of the playoff race. Nugg fans need to face the truth that Managment choose to blow up this season in order to restart the building process. Guess we will know for sure when Javale gets some minutes.

    • Jeff

      Give Birdman 30 minutes a night and you get an exhausted, injured Birdman, not highlight real dunks and blocks.

    • G4553N

      100% false

  • Go Nugs

    I’m excited for the shot blocking presence, but I hope he works on his pick and roll defense. Teams have exploited Denver’s inability to defend the pick and roll in the past and I hope we’re moving in the right direction. Overall, I think it was the right move with the depth of the team, Nene’s subpar performance for the amount of money he was getting paid, and Birdman’s mans diminishing presence in the lane, even though he has been playing better lately. I’m most excited about Kenneth Faried, this guy has an extreme passion for the game that doesn’t come around very often. On top of that, he is extremely talented. I think management has done an excellent job in building a competitive, deep-young team that is fun to watch.

  • Robert

    Hate it. Hated it from moment one. Feel free to put me on blast if it works out, but I just can’t see that happening, and I’m not generally the Negative Nancy type of fan.

    This is going to be a disaster. In one fell swoop the Nuggies have gone from entertaining for all the right reasons to entertaining for all the wrong ones.

  • tom

    Just let him play, let the basketball do the talking. Only then we will how if he will man up and be the player he can be..

  • Ryan

    The fact that the Nugs were trying to trade Nene almost from the day he signed that extension tells me that they never really intended to keep him, but wanted to get something for the asset instead of just letting him walk. (I bet the Chandler situation turns out to be similar)

    Nuggets will be able get a nice first hand look at McGee over the rest of the season and decide if he is worth signing at the end of the year.

  • Eric B

    Being a huge NBA and Nuggets fan who lived in Washington DC for 5 years, I got to see McGee up close. I had season tickets with some friends during McGee’s rookie season — the Wizards went 19-63, so our enjoyment of the game very quickly strayed away from hoping for “winning basketball” from the home team. In the games McGee played he nearly always provided 3 of the 5 funnest moments of the night, for better and worse. He was good for at least one block (generally of the remarkable variety), at least one goaltend (almost always of the remarkably stupid variety), a vicious dunk or two and at least one missed alley-oop (virtually always because he tried to do too much from too far away).

    He always seemed like a fun loving kid, albeit a bit of a goofball who perhaps wasn’t paying the most attention to things like film sessions and scouting reports. He was too skinny and not strong enough and would get pushed around, but has grown into his body since then.

    He was also arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute in DC (she was an undercover cop) and there were rumors that he was spending nights near the end of months staying in the arena because he was out of money. He was also 20 at the time…

    He got better the second and third years he was there. He also played with the TeamUSA summer camp prior to the 2010 World Championships to all around rave reviews (Chris Sheridan and others were shocked and angry that he didn’t make the final roster). Put into structured situations he can succeed when he is held accountable and given a role. Left to his own devices, hilarity often ensues, sometimes wonderfully and sometimes (very, very) frustratingly.

    While I’m a little sad to lose Nene, there is no doubt in my mind that McGee is a younger, taller, longer, more athletic and more talented version of Birdman. He has the potential to be very, very good, especially defensively. Paired with players like Faried, Chandler and Brewer, the Nuggets would have the longest, most athletic 2-5 players on defense in the entire league — a group with the potential to wreak total havoc. That group also has the potential at this point to give up an 18 point run in two and a half minutes…

    Also, his dunk of two balls on two baskets at the dunk contest a couple years ago remains one of the most remarkable athletic feats I’ve ever seen on a basketball court.

    Nuggets fans will learn to enjoy cheering for McGee despite his fits of silliness. I think McGee can learn to be a very good player and a real asset for the Nuggets going forward.

    • Eric B

      I apologize, I misremembered. McGee was not arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute — it was Blatche. My bad.

  • Finazzsaus

    Excited. But not for the same reason others are excited. I’m excited by the cap space you can clear at the end of the year. We have McGee rights. if he gets the $14mill he wants next season I’m happy to see him walk and we have a lot of $$$ to play with. But the impression I’m getting is most front office execs won’t pay him that much. So we could in fact get this service next year for his QO which is peanuts or sign him to a multi year deal for around the 5-6 mill mark. Which is a bargain.
    So, excited.

    • Trevor

      5-6 mill a year for a starting center in the NBA would be crazy low. I’d expect him to at least get 10 mill a year which is what DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers is making. But with all the money the Nuggets wouldn’t pay him they could extend the contract of Ty Lawson which would be a good move.

      • finazzaus

        i know it is, like a said Bargin. then nuggets will have enough room to sign ty once miller contact is off the books. if the nuggets are going to offer McGee a contact this summer they are going to have to decided before then where Mozgov fits in on this team. we have already got koufos singed until the end of 2014. so having 3 center all deserving minutes would be crazy.

  • DH

    Birdman’s game with JR’s personality? Yikes! Honestly, I don’t know what to expect, but this analysis doesn’t ease any of my fears. I look forward to actually seeing what he does on a winning team, though. And it’s low risk, so I can just hope it works out or be fine with it if it doesn’t.

  • http://nugznazty.wordpress.com/ Owen

    Listen, this is the sort of guy who is going to play really well in the next 19 games to get a contract– then next year he will fall off hard. We need to take this blogger’s advice as we expect him to understand Nene’s shortcomings.

    I think he will play well for us RIGHT NOW– we should sign and trade him while he’s a relatively unknown commodity this offseason. Sucks we had to drop Nene, but that contract was going to look HIDEOUS in 2 years.

    Maybe we could grab Chris Kaman? He’s expensive and we still have to pay TLaw, the good thing (if you’re trying to remain optimistic) is TLaw doesn’t look like he’s worth much right now as our team is imploding.

  • ny nugs fan

    this all sounds interesting but he first needs to get in the game… was twiddling thumbs waiting during that mavs game… thought he couldve helped on d when the mavs were making a run… NOT

  • JhamR158

    This is coming from a Washington Wizard fan who has to put in a negative spin just in case he does get the seller’s remorse.
    I have heard things from he will be the next Dwight Howard to being Shawn Bradley.
    I think a change of scenery could do wonders, our FO usually has the midas touch when it comes to transactions, so lets give him the benefit of the doubt.
    I know one thing is that he will play hard these next 19 games to try to get that $14 mil contract…or else he will realize he doesn’t deserve it.

  • Max Ireland

    The comments section from that Wizards blog paints a significantly brighter picture of McGee. We could write something really negative like that about Nene right now too, but the fact is neither of these guys are garbage.

    Also we’re talking about playing for the Wizards here, who would care?

    • nich

      As for “Who would care?” on the Wizards..

      Everyone but Javale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche.

      That’s why they’re the guys the Wizards shipped out / indefinitely benched despite being 3 of the most inherently talented guys on the team.

      You’re crazy if you think it’s reasonable to stop hustling just because you’re on a rebuilding team. Thankfully the Wizards have essentialy gotten rid of the 3 leftovers from the Gilbert Arenas era who decided they were too good to put in work or play team basketball.

      Those guys lack of hustle isn’t because the Wizards have sucked, it’s the REASON the Wizards have sucked.

  • Golden Fan

    I have to admit that GK overrated JaVale that day, but you just can’t judge his current reputation yet. Haven’t you realized that this is just his second team to play with while the first is a bad team and org. called the Wizards. When your losing, not only your emotions go down but also your interest in winning if you lose too much that you’re going to be at the bottom. The Nuggets are a winning team at this point, and this could mean a change of heart in JaVale. Winning teams or championship contenders change the behavior or reputation of most players in a positive. And not just winning records, but also great coaches. When it comes to player relationships, George Karl is way better than Flip Saunders. Flip was unable to make JaVale mature which could be a factor why he’s fired. Now that JaVale is under Karl, let’s say if you RMCers are damn right.

  • stevesf47

    I live in PA and have alot of close friends that are wiz fans. They all loved this move for them. They couldn’t stand Mcgee or Nick Young. In fact, they sent me about 5 or 6 youtube videos to educate me on how much of a bonehead he is lol.

    Regardless, i love the move. Nene contract was huge, at around 14 mill per. We were able to sign chandler for 7ish. Now if mcgee works out we resign him for a Deandre Jordan type deal around 9 mill per (no way will he get much more, dont care what mcgee said about wanting 14 mill lol). If he doesnt work out, he’s a RFA and teams want a big man. We can sign and trade him. Even if we just let him go we still have 7 mill off the books to look for someone else.

    There was a decent chance we wouldnt be able to get chandler if this didnt happen. So i look at it as Chandler and MCgee or Chandler and cap space to sign another player > Nene. Just how i look at it.

  • Wiz fan here

    You can’t judge JaVale on stats. I will start out on that. He is a player who COULD very possible end up being fantastic, but I would say he has a 5-10% chance of doing so. Maybe a 50% chance of being extremely mediocre and occasionally infuriating, and a remaining 40-45% chance that he just completely and totally bombs in Denver.

    When he gasses, he is one of the worst players in the league. With his asthma issues (his awful start this year was attributed to being on the wrong medicine) the air up there could be a major problem…I don’t think saying so is unreasonable. He just simply stops trying and starts making those youtube-worthy plays when he is tired. We have been calling for him to be a short-burst energy D guy for a while.

    That said, he makes some fantastic plays. But I believe it was Flip Saunders who said last year that “JaVale makes 7-8 fantastic plays a game, unfortunately there are over 200 plays in a game.” Basically: just focus your eyes on JaVale instead of the ball whenever he actually starts getting PT. He just Doesn’t Get It ™. He is CONSTANTLY out of position, really, absolutely chases blocks to the detriment of the team, but has made strides this year. This is the first year he really came back looking better, and he did stop biting on pumps as much. But he is a black hole on offense and stat-whore on D. And his mom sits in front of us right behind the bench in Verizon, and LITERALLY yells at the coaching staff all game. Its really a distraction haha. You can actually see her on TV a lot.

    A lot of that is probably shouldered by the awful culture built in the DC lockeroom. If he is going to get it, it wasn’t going to be in DC. So I think there is a chance he could really blossom in a new environment. But I wouldn’t bet anything on it. He also recently said he wants $14m/y on his new contract. And the godawful wiz have frankly been MUCH better with him on the bench in most games. There is a reason he has sat a lot, and a reason why he is last on the team in adjusted +/-

    Be positive and stay with him, but just know you have picked a lottery ticket, not a talented big man who is probably going to grow into a dominant force.

  • Chris

    Lifelong Wizards fan here. Thought I’d add my 2 cents.

    I have watched every Wizards game this season and I watch the vast majority of Wizards games every season. It is torture. And JaVale McGee is, beyond any doubt, the most helpless, clueless player I have ever watched in an NBA game. He makes Yi Jianlian look like Hakeem Olajuwon by comparison.

    Some of that is no doubt due to a poor organization that lacks the ability to develop young talent. After all, Ernie Grunfeld is one of the NBA’s worst general managers. But the knocks on JaVale are the very same knocks he had coming out of college. He hasn’t progressed at all in terms of basketball IQ or competitiveness or leadership or attention to detail or focus. He is the single worst pick-and-roll defender in the NBA, and he doesn’t care and he doesn’t try. Washington has the fastest open-court point guard in the NBA, a kid who is desperately imploring his teammates to hustle on defense and run in transition with him, and yet JaVale will very, very often just loaf his way up the court, even when transition opportunities are apparent. In short, he doesn’t seem to respond to any kind of motivational tactic or leadership.

    I don’t dislike JaVale McGee. He seems like a painfully awkward, intensely defensive person who often means well at the outset but is very easily psyched out. I wish him the best. But I have to tell you, even with Nene’s enormous contract, I was literally stunned to silence with overwhelming happiness at news of this trade. In Washington, where the losing culture seems to ooze from the very walls, JaVale McGee was as prominent a part of the problem as any single other person or thing. He just has a loser’s mentality on the basketball court. He doesn’t understand how to win, he doesn’t expect to win, he doesn’t mind losing. He doesn’t trust his teammates and they won’t trust him (nor should they).

    Thanks for reading.

  • Tom

    I think a lot of Nuggets fans look at McGee’s over-inflated stats and think this is a great deal, but rebounds and blocks don’t mean anything if they don’t contribute to winning basketball games. McGee is a significant downgrade from Nene, and it’s clear that this trade has very little to do with McGee’s potential but rather is a pure salary dump. This trade only makes sense if you think the other young centers on the team have a chance to be pretty good and deserve more minutes. But if the Nuggets thought they had a chance to go deep in the playoffs this year, they would never have made this trade.

    • Jeff

      Nene couldn’t have made half the plays McGee made tonight. Sure Nene can do lots of things McGee can’t, but I am not convinced Nene is a much much better player.

  • Max Ireland

    McGee was beast tonight. Saw some of the bad things people talk about but he looked motivated. No offense but the Wiz suck and I wouldn’t hustle either. No question hes our best 7 footer

  • nich

    On the other hand the Wizards finally looked like an actual basketball team last night. Granted, it was against the Nets and D-Will got ejected.

    It was beautiful seeing ball movement and defensive rotations like an actual NBA team though. I was worried that Nene would be overcome by the stink of the Wizards, but then I suddenly realized that we had aired the place out and that we have a team full of hard working blue collar players who hustle on defense and pay attention to fundamentals. You could already see the difference in play the past few games simply from shipping Nick & Javale out, but one Nene stepped in it was like everything clicked and I was finally watching an NBA team that wasn’t hamstrung by 3 And1 players.

    Will DC be good now? I doubt it, they still need somebody to start over Jordan Crawford and get him accustomed to his destiny as an excellent 6th man. They still need someone who can score points at the 3 but now the frontcourt and PG are basically set for the next couple seasons. Hopefully the draft and Free Agency can sort this team out and put all our good role players into their proper slots around Wall.

    I still love this trade for the Nuggets and Clippers as well. McGee is frustrating as hell, but the Nuggets don’t need to depend on his development the way the Wizards do, and the Nuggets won’t need to be as concerned about their 1st and 2nd year bigs picking up on the fundamentals faster than McGee has in year 4. He’s an ultimate high upside / no downside player for the Nuggets and that’s exactly what you guys needed with your roster as currently constructed. If he works out, sweet, redo on your center of the future contract. If he doesn’t? Cap room for days.

  • Tim

    Good Luck Denver, McGee is the worst defensive post player I’ve seen in the league. All he cares about is cherry picking chances for highlight dunks and blocks. Meanwhile players score at will on him in the paint. His basketball IQ is zero, which is strange for someone who grew up in a basketball family, which points to the future of never “getting it” if he hasn’t by now. He announced he wants a $14m per year contract after this season for multiple years. If Denver wanted to dump Nene fine, but that is all they did, they got nothing in return, McGee was the main reason the wizards stunk it up the past two years. Good luck Denver, you will need it.