JaVale McGee video scouting report: 3 assists, 3 wasted possessions

On New Year’s Day versus the Los Angeles Clippers, JaVale McGee did something which for him was quite remarkable.

And no, this is not about his stunning buzzer beating 3-pointer, though that is certainly what will cement his performance permanently in the collective memory of NBA fandom.

But just as notably, he matched his career high of three assists. He had accomplished this only once before, on Mar. 20, 2011. Thus far this season, McGee has had 20 games with zero dimes, 12 games with just one, and now, a single game with three.

About a month into the 2012-13 season, I did a video scouting report calling for JaVale to make a more concerted effort to pass the ball out of the post rather than forcing so many hasty, contested shots. In this recent game we had a chance to see just how effective McGee can be when looking to share the ball, so it offers a great opportunity to follow up on the topic.

Here we will take a look at his three assists, though it should be noted that the first and third are the most pertinent to the previous report, as he dished the second on a fast break, not in a half court set.

We will also look at three wasted possessions in which JaVale passes up the chance to distribute the ball to open teammates, resulting in missed shots. Contrary to the bumbling caricature which Shaquille O’Neal and others have carefully cultivated for comedic purposes over the years, McGee is actually one of the most efficient players on the Nuggets. His 22.8 PER is tenth best in the league, and his .583 FG% is third.

But imagine just how much more effective he could be if he found a way to focus better on finding open teammates when stuck with bad shots. One can only hope that the Nuggets coaching staff is working with JaVale to help him make progress in this underdeveloped area of his game.

The positive value of his assists is fairly self evident, but here’s a brief breakdown of each wasted possession:

Wasted possession 1

Here Andre Iguodala passes the ball to McGee just outside the elbow. The paint is packed with a wall of three defenders, but rather than passing to an open 3-point shooter in Danilo Gallinari to his right, he drives left straight into the wall, and floats a contested hook shot. It is well out of his range, as he shoots just 30 percent from the paint outside the restricted area, and the result is a miss.

Wasted possession 2

On this play, JaVale drives to the middle of the paint and backs up against Blake Griffin, who is quickly joined by Lamar Odom for the double team. This time Corey Brewer is the man wide open at the arc, and since Odom has switched to help, Koufos is also open near the basket. Fournier is another potential target, albeit a more difficult one. The worst part of this play is that a full 15 seconds remain on the shot clock, allowing for plenty of time to get a better look at the basket. Instead, McGee does a spin move to an out of range jumper, which results not only in a missed shot, but two quick fast break points for the Clippers the other way.

Wasted possession 3

Here JaVale gets the ball in the low post against Griffin with six seconds remaining on he shot clock. Given his height advantage, and the fact that little time remained, this is probably the most forgivable of the three misses we are reviewing. However, both Evan Fournier and Corey Brewer get wide open on the perimeter with plenty of time left to pass and shoot. Finding either of them would result in a better, higher percentage shot than the spinning fadeaway jumper McGee misses from well outside the paint, where he’s a 29 percent shooter.

And without further ado, here is the complete video scouting report:


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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Chris

    Good report. It would be great to see what kind of spacing advantages the team might gain if McGee can dish it at least two or three times per game after drawing doubles down low.

  • Ernie

    First, thanks for this analysis. However I actually don’t think any of those possessions were wasted. My guess is the reason McGee is so efficient is that he is good at making shots within the paint. The first two he took contested shots yes, but from 7 feet and straight at the basket. The shots were poorly executed, but McGee wasn’t out of control or anything. I would think having McGee take 7 foot shots straight on from the paint would result in a greater than 50% makes, especially the 2nd one where he put a good move on the smaller Griffen on the 2ndary break and then just missed.

    The third shot as you mentioned was with 6 seconds left on the clock. He was single teamed and yes only managed a fadeaway. But without the double team those passes aren’t that easy to execute, especially for him. Count that one as just good defense by LA with McGee having less options than if there were 10 seconds left on the clock.

    • doktarr

      I basically agree with everything Ernie said. I don’t love the execution on the first shot of the three but both of those are less than horrible shots. I hate that baseline fadeaway – very very few players are efficient with that shot – but it was late in the clock.

      Some additional points here:

      * These aren’t really the worst shots we see from the Nuggets. I don’t love any of these looks – they are all less efficient than a dunk or layup or uncontested 3-point shot. But I prefer them to, say, any Corey Brewer shot that isn’t either at the basket or behind the 3-point line. You could really make a reel of shots like these for any player who takes a fair number of shots.

      * I would dispute that the players behind the line are “wide open” in the first two clips. In the first clip, McGee could have probably gotten Gallo open by moving in behind Odom and then passing out, but Gallo wasn’t clear of him. In the second clip, those guys are all well-covered. Any pass that gets to them would have to go off to a side or over the defender, giving the defender plenty of time to close to the line.

      * Counting all of his shots, his assists, his free throws, and his turnover, JaVale was involved in the end of 15 offensive possessions. The Nuggets got 17 points in those 15 possessions. That’s an awesome offensive rate. The only other player on the Nuggets who was comparably efficient in that game was Andre Miller.

      * The above is reflected by McGee’s +17 +/- in just 17 minutes on the court – by far the best number on the team.

      McGee is playing great basketball. We need to be able to see the big picture and recognize what a disruptive force he is on defense, and how efficient he is on offense despite the bad misses he often has. He should be playing 10 minutes more per game.

    • dynamo.joe

      I think wasted possesion 2 was a wasted possesion, because there was an easy pass available to Koufos. McGee had already done the hard work of drawing the double team. He was already above the defense. That is a guaranteed 2pts.

      I know you guys like to say K2 has hands of stone, but there was no need for a scorching pass there.

      The other 2 possesions, would have required some pretty good passing, maybe even some sports center top ten passing.

      On possesion 1 passing to Gallo would have required a no-look-backwards-over-his-head-pass or an easier pass to not-a-3pt-threat Miller. Maybe depending on how the defense reacts that leaves Miller with a quick assist to a wide open Gallo. I think that’s the best case scenario and it requires JaVale to be thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead.

      • Ernie

        Dynamo, I’m not sure I agree with your assessment on wasted possession 2. I looked at it again and while Odem came over he didn’t come over hard on a full double team but instead hedged just a little to have McGee see him and stop his dribble. However Odem didn’t seem to have any influence on McGee or his shot, and was still in good position to deflect a pass for K2.

        Actually it was pretty bad defense by Odem, because if McGee misses left instead of right then K2 is in position for the rebound. It looks to me that the only thing Odem could do in that defensive position was intercept a pass to K2.


    Karl fire

  • googergieger

    To be fair McGee has had some sweet passes in other games but his team mates either weren’t expecting it or just couldn’t finish. One in Memphis Brewer was out of bounds. But yes he has had a few really good looking passes his team mates fumbled or just didn’t convert.

  • SmokinNugs

    I like that McGee looks pumped after a slick pass like he does after a big dunk.

  • googergieger

    One thing you can say about everyone on this team is they do love playing together. McGee is often the most engaged in the game even when he is on the bench. Well him and Brewer. Both biggest cheer leaders this team has. Even more than the actual cheer leaders.

  • Tom

    Yep, those three possession were fugly, like pickup basketball.

  • Jelly monster

    firstly, a nice clean edit on the video by denbutsu and I like the slow-mo repeat of clips

    I am surprised you didn’t note in your analysis that all of McGee’s assists came in motion moving to the basket (1 on fast break, 2 on roll action) rather than back to the basket assists

    However, while passing in the post does not seem to be a strength of McGee, that can be said of many big men and Denver has a tendency to dump it into McGee with little time left on the shot clock and watch what happens (I think 45%+ of his shots come with 0-10 on the shot clock)

    There may be some room for improvement but I don’t think McGee as playmaker in the post is, or should be, Denvers goal

    I would also agree with doktarr (above) that you may be stretching the definition of ‘wide open’ on some of these clips

    IMO you may be barking up the wrong tree here as far as picking a topic to analysis

  • al68

    Los pases son buenos y los errores solo el segundo lo veo especialmente malo, el 3º no esta mal recibe en el poste bajo con 5 segundos lo que tiene que hacer es finalizar el ataque como ha hecho.
    No me parecen bien buscados sus errores, ya que comete muchisimos durante los partidos como salir a taponar tiros fuera de tiempo y dejar desprotegido el rebote hacer ayudas a destiempo y dejar a varios jugadores fuera de posicion, no defender bien casi ningun 1×1 por su pesima posicionde pies en defensa, siempre deja pasar al atacante y busca despues poner un tapon.
    Como ya hozo el los wizards empeora el equipo ya que hace estar a sus compañeros pendiente de si va hacer las cosas bien o las va ha hacer mal.
    En definitiva es un jugador que esta muchas veces descentrado y descentra al resto del equipo, suerte que tenemos a GK que dosifica sus minutos.

  • John

    I don’t think any of these were terrible offenses… If McGee starts completing those plays consistently, then other teams will start collapsing harder and double(triple) teaming him… then he can worry about passing more.

    He does need to play a little more under control or unconsciously though. He seems to start thinking about what to do “after” he gets the ball. Once he gets more playing time this problem will solve itself…. hopefully.

  • Joel

    Guys, I really appreciate the feedback. I think some of you have made some legit points, and while I don’t have time to respond to them all right now, I will try over the next day or two. In the meantime, two things that I think are important in putting this post in context:

    1) It’s a follow up to a previous post (link:, so I hope you’ll visit (or re-visit) that one, too, since it sets the table for this one. Everyone’s focusing on the wasted possessions aspect here, but my main intention really was to give JaVale props for doing a good job in this game. I just thought it would be more interesting if what he did right were contrasted with what he could have done better. I could make (and I have made) more homeristic highlight reel videos, but the ones I always most enjoyed watching were Jeremy’s film room analyses, Sebastian Pruiti’s NBA Playbook stuff, etc. If it seems like I’m nitpicking on McGee too much, it’s only because I think he’s such an extremely valuable player for this team (who also happens to have a very high usage rate), and I was attempting to focus on one potential path to improvement.

    2) I really don’t have a huge problem with the “wasted possessions” in this particular game, and I fully agree that, overall, he played great. Finding examples from the same game where he could have passed but didn’t was more a convenience of video editing than anything else. The larger point, however, is not restricted to a single game, but is his overall pattern. I don’t expect him to turn into Sabonis overnight or anything. But to have more games with zero assists than one assist, and to have only one game with more than one… I don’t think any reasonable basketball mind (including McGee fans) would disagree that he could be — and should be — doing better than that. I mean really, having at least one assist more often than not, and sometimes having more than one? That’s setting the bar pretty low.

    • Ernie


      Again thanks for the work.

      I think my biggest issue with McGee is not on offense but on defense. He rarely gets in a good defensive position, goes for too many ball fakes, and cares more about blocking shots than defending his guy. He also gets called for defensive 3 seconds a bunch. So anything you can show in the future to indicate this is getting better would be appreciated. Because McGee should be a dominant defensive player, the inside equivilant to AI.

    • Jelly monster

      I would also love analysis on McGee defensive errors and any improvement (like Ernie) as it seems to be a main reason he does not get more playing time.

      I also reviewed you first McGee post and comment below as there was no comment box available on the other one (comments had closed maybe?)

      RE: Don’t Bogart that ball McGee

      I think your stats and discussion make some really interesting points but I think you are let down by your clip choice

      Clip 1

      It is true that McGee does not look to pass but when he receives the ball the 2nd time there is only 4 secs on the shot clock and he had just been facing the sideline trying to post before receiving the pass so there is little time to look for passing options.
      I actually really like the move McGee makes here which I think he should use more often: driving parallel before finishing with a hook/scoop. In this case he missed but see the following clips at watch nba (use links below then click on the video play-by-play clip):
      1. vs. Memphis 14 Dec 3:33 Q3
      -McGee uses a quick 1 dribble and then his long stride to leave the defenders and is able to ‘turn the corner’ so he is flowing towards the hoop when he shoots

      2. @Golden State 29 Nov 11:12 Q2
      -harder make than the first example but he is still releasing near the middle of the painted area for a good uncontested hook

      Clip 2

      Good D by Splitter and helpers here means a pass could have been a good idea on this clip for sure, unfortunately there is probably too much traffic to get it to the open Brewer in this case and Hamilton seems to start fading back too early instead of staying at the 3pt line as an option (with Miller already fading back on D he could have stayed as a legit passing option longer)

      Clip 3

      Totally agree with this clips analysis.
      Bursting away from the basket through a double team to shoot a fade away jumper with 14secs on the shot clock? Nooooo

      Clip 4

      This is just a McGee miss on a good shot to me.
      Facing the basket this close with the Defender (Bosh) a half step slow this is a good shot that needs to be taken immediately as McGee does with a nice bank to avoid the block.
      None of the other Denver players who are wide open are actually set they are still moving when McGee begins his move so even if McGee had passed out the defence could have closed on them (and he probably couldn’t even see Brewer directly behind him).

      Clip 5

      Your analysis points out the shot clock on this clip, honestly McGee has to shoot this and makes the right choice.
      (just to note: it is not Miller but Lawson who passes to McGee first then Iggy who set him up for the jump shot on this clip)

      So in summary the stats and discussion seem to show there might be something to your theory but only 2/5 of the clips help your case in my opinion (clip 2 & 3). I know the time it takes to find, analysis, and edit clips for video analysis can make finding the perfect clips hard but I think you should have dropped a few of these and found some more definitive ones to try and illustrate your points

      p.s. nice editing by denbutsu again