#NuggetsRank No. 5: JaVale McGee

As we continue along our #NuggetsRank countdown we arrive at a player whose combination of past performance, inconsistency and potential makes him very difficult to evaluate.  When combining all those factors, JaVale McGee was voted as the fifth best player on the Denver Nuggets.

It is important to keep in mind that the votes were tabulated during the off-season when the last time we heard or saw anything of McGee he had posted two fantastic playoff performances against the Lakers, signed a nice four year, $44 million contract and was spending time with one of the most physically gifted and fundamentally sound big men of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon.

It sure seemed like McGee was on his way up.

Fast forward to today and McGee is struggling in the preseason averaging less than eight points and well under four rebounds in 17.8 minutes in Denver’s five contests so far.  McGee has not hit his stride as a shot blocker, tallying only two so far, is shooting 43.9% from the floor and has yet to record an assist.  To make things worse, McGee has certainly been outplayed by Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov.

Certainly it is unfair to rush to judgment over five preseason games and a paltry 89 minutes of floor time.  With McGee’s previous struggles and reputation any slippage in progress will be viewed with greater consternation than with other players on the roster.

With the Nuggets final two preseason games on national television starting Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers Nuggets fans will be able to catch a glimpse of McGee’s current standing.  Were stellar performances in the playoffs merely a fluke?  Did his big contract go to his head?  Is he just starting slow?  Is he simply working on the skills that he learned this summer resulting in some growing pains on the road to mastering the footwork and tactics necessary to be a consistent post scorer?

Anyone who claims to know exactly what the Nuggets will get from JaVale McGgee this season is treading dangerous ground.  McGee could certainly prove his #NuggetsRank position of number five to be accurate as he ends up moving into the starting lineup, displaying an improved post game and patrolling the paint on defense.  Of course, McGee is just as likely to struggle to live up to his new contract and be the highest paid third string center in the league.  Few players who have been in the league for four full seasons have such a wide range of possible outcomes for their fifth campaign.

At this point in his career McGee should be benefiting from the more stable environment that Denver supplies.  While he will most likely not be as consistent as his other teammates who man the pivot, his explosiveness and potential should shine through often enough to show his ranking here.

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  • josh

    Supposed to be 5 not 6 just for a heads up

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    Thanks for the heads up josh. My old habit of not proofreading headlines strikes again!

  • Bob

    let’s see then it’s probably goes Faried #4, Gallo #3, Iggy #2 and ty #1

    • Andrew K

      I am betting Ty will be #2 and Iggy #1

  • Ban Johnson

    McGee makes the Nuggets a contender or pretender, depending on how he’s playing at the end of the season. If he’s inconsistent at best and averaging just 20 minutes per game of Miller time, that’s not nearly good enough, especially considering his contract.

    For two games against a very large (but lumbering) Lakers front line, he looked like a future hall-of-famer.

    2 games isn’t a whole lot of proof, unfortunately.

    The Nuggets need to cut bait while he still has value, if and when they determine that he’ll never “get it.” A very hard thing to do for someone with that much potential…and whom they traded Nene for.

    I personally think Karl should give him every chance to succeed. Play him 30 minutes per game, rain or shine, until the trade deadline. But Karl will think short-term, unfortunately (probably). It will be much more difficult for McGee to find his confidence if he’s getting inconsistent minutes.

    • nugswin

      No way Karl should be jeopardizing the success of the team this year and play McGee if he’s not producing. Home court in the playoffs is orders of magnitude more important and will probably come down to a game or two — there is no wiggle room.

      The good thing about Moz and KK playing well enough (other than it being good on it’s face) is that it can be used as a carrot to dangle in front of Javale. He’s said all the right things about work ethic, etc. He can either take on the challenge of earning his PT and make us a better team in the process or not. Hopefully the peer pressure of Iggy and the team as a whole will win out and his talent will eventually take over.

  • EWilson

    I think it’s way to early to say anything about McGee. My bet is he’s simply thinking too much right now instead of letting the game come to him. If Karl is smart, he tells McGee to focus on defense and rebounding and work on his offense off the court for the time being. If he does that, McGee’s natural abilities will help him settle in, I think, and then he can start building up his offensive repertoire.

  • Elliot

    I’ve been reading these posts about McGee and his preseason struggles and I can’t help but think we are jumping to conclusions here. So I went to ESPN to try to find some statistics that show the lack of correlation of preseason to regular season statistics. Here is what I found:

    Nothing.

    ESPN doesn’t even keep preseason statistics. ESPN has determined that preseason stats don’t give us enough information to warrant even recording them.

    The preseason is a time for experimentation, getting warmed up, and figuring out your role in an offense, and worrying about any Nugget for their preseason stats is far too premature.

  • dynamo.joe

    Even pre-trade “knucklehead” JaVale was a well above average but not quite all-star caliber center. His play was easily worth a $9M contract and if you throw in the 20-25% kicker that the NBA gives to basically every 7 footer and you get $11M, basically we are paying a league average sort of contract. Even if you assume zero progress.

    I think EWilson is basically right. He now has many more offensive options and hasn’t figured out how to choose which one he uses in any given situation.

    If I could give JaVale 1 piece of advice, it would be “everyone already thinks of you as a goofball, so you are the 1 player who loses nothing by bringing back the Rick Barry Granny freethrow. Use it to become a 25 pt a night monster”.

    Well, 25 pts might be over stating, but I bet he could average 20/night with just that 1 change.

    • nugswin

      I think we’re all hoping for you and EWilson to be right, that his mind hasn’t quite synched with the on court reality yet. I also think you’re right that even baseline — performance at the level he came to the team with — with no improvement he’s still worth near what the contract he got pays him.

      But if he’s not producing at the level that Moz or KK is then he’s going to have to sit. We’re not rebuilding, it’s time to win now.

    • doktarr

      I don’t really have any reason to think you’re right that McGee would suddenly find success if he shot free throws underhanded. But if he did, that would be hilarious and surprising and awesome and oddly heartwarming.

  • CJP32

    Pre-season allows for players to find their feet, adjust to their new team mates and gain confidence/incorporate the work they did in the summer.

    McGee will be fine, he just needs to focus on one thing at a time, starting with defense. Come in, play smart, to fall for every head fake, dont goal tend, block shots to your team mates, not out of bounds. Then the fast breaks/lobs will happen. If he focuses on defense first and rebounding, his groove on offense will be easier.

    KK should be the starting C because when McGee starts he tends to try to hard and commits silly fouls. Watching from the bench for the first 5-6 minutes can allow McGee to see exactly what he needs to do to help his team. Plus playing alongside Andre Miller/Corey Brewer seemed to work just fine last season.

    I expect McGee to eventually get the starting nod and average 12pts and 9 rebs with 2.5 blks and shoot close to 60%. Give him a few weeks though.

  • Alex

    Hallelujah! Anthony Carter was waived!

    • Ogi

      Finally, I was worried about GK would want to keep AC over Julian Stone.