According to the official Nuggets twitter account, JaVale McGee will be sidelined indefinitely due to a stress fracture in his left tibia.
Head coach Brian Shaw has not decided if he will start Timofey Mozgov or J.J. Hickson at center for Monday’s game against Utah but either way expect to see both players start logging more time at the position.
The news comes at a bad time for McGee who had already been struggling to stay on the court in a season that was supposed to be his breakout campaign.
Instead of breaking out JaVale has struggled to stay on the floor, averaging just 16 minutes per game this season thanks to a combination of foul trouble, ineffective play and bad decision making.
The injury probably impacts the Denver defense more than anything, as despite JaVale’s troubles making the proper rotation at times he is clearly the best man-to-man post defender on the roster as well as the only real shot blocking threat in the interior. With Hickson seemingly set to absorb some of those minutes at center the rim protection will be completely gone, as Hickson has struggled all year at being in the right place at the right time, allowing uncontested shots at the rim at an alarming pace.
The injury also robs Denver of their best post up threat on offense, which won’t help one of the league’s worst offenses in the early season be fixed soon.
On the bright side the shift of Hickson to center should allow for more minutes for Darrell Arthur, who has showed a level of defensive position that most other Nuggets big men have struggled to come near. While the Hickson/Arthur combination has been really bad all season, Arthur was on the floor for a large part of the Nugget’s third quarter comeback in Phoenix on Friday as his offensive spacing helped open the lane up for Ty Lawson and his defense helped slow down the Suns a bit.
The injury should also mean more minutes for Mozgov who has been one of the brightest spots for the Nuggets this season. If he can continue the good work in more minutes, including meaningful end of game ones, it may be hard for JaVale to regain the starting spot once he returns.
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