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: