Can Brian Shaw help JaVale McGee transform into a more conventional center?

“The anchor of the defense.” “Conventional.” “A presence in the middle.” “A true center.”

If you dropped these phrases on most NBA fans and asked them who came to mind, it’s a near certainty that none of them would answer, “JaVale McGee.”

And if in turn you surveyed them on how they’d describe McGee, you’d invariably end up with “bonehead,” “goofball” and “Shaqtin’-a-fool” on your short list of most common responses.

New Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw appears to be on a mission to change all that, however. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 92 Indiana Pacers 89

Denver Nuggets 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
89 Indiana Pacers
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 2-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | +3

The shooting still isn’t there, but Gallo didn’t let it affect his aggressiveness everywhere else. He was solid on the boards from a big spot and showcased his ability to open up gaps with his passing, compiling a season-high 8 assists.

Kenneth Faried, SF 21 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -14

Faried is still young enough and raw enough to avoid the reputation of an awful defensive player. Nights like tonight, where he allowed David West a perfect 8-8 shooting in the first half, make you wonder just how long he’s got left.

Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -9

Overall a nice return performance for Koufos, whose efforts really limited Roy Hibbert’s impact on the offensive end.

Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 1-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | -3

How many nightmare games is enough? This is the second time this season Ty has played over 35 minutes with zero free throw attempts while scoring fewer than 3 points total. It’s the sixth time in 20 games he’s failed to reach double-digit scoring in starters minutes.

Andre Iguodala, SG 37 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +1

Poor showing from an offensive standpoint, but this was one of the Nuggets better defensive efforts of the young season. Iguodala turned up the pressure in the second half, guarding a variety of players and playing a huge part in a defense that allowed just 39 second half points.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 8 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2

Wasn’t making shots, and while Hamilton’s minutes are suffering a bit from Brewer’s recent surge, I think his body language and energy level just haven’t been consistent all year. He needs to stick with it and understand taking a bad shot is likely to get him benched right now.

Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 9-16 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +5

Brewer’s put up some phenomenal efforts this season, to the point he’s becoming the focal point of the Nuggets’ bench. Brewer took 8 shots in the paint, 5 threes, and two 11-foot jumpers. That kind of shot selection is what Nuggets basketball is all about

JaVale McGee, C 30 MIN | 9-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +17

Great game and even better was the personal growth and maturity on display in McGee’s first 30 minute effort of the year. He was running and finishing at a high level, shooting a perfect 9-for-9 while showing improved touch around the rim.

Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 6-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 15 PTS | +13

This guy has been moving at double speed since halftime of the Atlanta game. He either got a new pacemaker installed or is finally starting to hit his stride and understand that he needs to bring all-out energy to the game from the moment he comes in off the bench. Miller’s play was a big reason the Nuggets were able to close strong in a tight finish.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Nuggets’ interior defense picked up a ton in this game. Credit Koufos’ return, a much more focused JaVale McGee and just a well prepared gameplan for keeping the Pacers’ bigs away from the basket and off the offensive glass.
  2. Defending the three remains a problem. Although the Pacers have the second least efficient offense in the league and have struggled to get it going from deep, they shot 10-23 from three, many of them wide open and uncontested. The Nuggets generally play decent defense inside the three-point line and thankfully, Indiana didn’t have the horses to hurt the Nuggets from outside all night. Against the better offenses in the league, the Nuggets will struggle if they don’t improve their perimeter defense.
  3. Although the Nuggets had yet another colossal failure to produce a shot attempt late in a close game, they only had 8 turnovers to Indiana’s 18. If the Nuggets can limit their turnovers, they can live with the inept free throw shooting and awful three-point percentages that have become mainstays of their new offense.

3-on-3: Big man moves

This past week was a very active one from the Nuggets’ standpoint. In addition to competing in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Nuggets amnestied Chris “Birdman” Andersen, signed Anthony Randolph and re-signed JaVale McGee. To gain a better understanding of what these moves entail, we’ve called upon our writers to dish out analysis in true Roundball Mining Company fashion — also known as 3-on-3. With three different big man scenarios, this edition will aim to attach three different words from three different writers to each of the players discussed.

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JaVale McGee – To Pay or Not to Pay, That is the Question

In the summer of 1996 Dikembe Mutombo was a free agent.  Dikembe was the best player on the Nuggets, but the Atlanta Hawks offered him a sizeable contract.  Bernie Bickerstaff was faced with a decision.  Pay Dikembe more than he felt he was worth, or let the cornerstone of the franchise walk.

Bernie decided that it was not wise to pay Dikembe and Mutombo became a member of the Atlanta Hawks.  The rest is history.  Dikembe won three of the next five defensive player of the year awards and helped lead the Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2001 while the Nuggets crumbled into obscurity.

Clearly Bickerstaff chose poorly.  Mutombo was easily worth the money that he was offered.  Even so, Bernie may have actually been ahead of his time.  One of the keys to managing a team in the luxury tax era is recognizing when to say, “uncle” over a player’s salary.

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Free Agency: Nuggets to meet with JaVale, Rudy unrestricted

It was more or less a foregone conclusion that JaVale McGee would become a restricted free agent, but Masai Ujiri’s penchant for secrecy couldn’t help but get a few fans worried when free agency opened without any official confirmation on McGee’s qualifying offer one way or the other. In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, Ken Berger of CBS Sports broke the silence and confirmed that the Nuggets have in fact gone through the obvious formality of extending the qualifying offer to McGee, making him a restricted free agent and allowing the Nuggets to match any offer he could receive from another team.

Berger went on to reveal that Rudy Fernandez did not receive a qualifying offer, essentially ending whatever slim hope there was of Rudy returning to the Nuggets or eventually being signed and traded to another team. Rudy will now be unrestricted and free to sign with any NBA team, but he’s currently rehabbing in Spain with an eye on playing in the London Olympics. From what I’ve been told about Rudy’s contract with Real Madrid during last year’s lockout, a deal is already in place for him to return to the Spanish team for multiple seasons after he has fulfilled his NBA contract. Considering Madrid just lost up-and-comer Kyle Singler to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, I think it’s a safe bet they go hard after Rudy and even if they don’t, holding onto Rudy’s rights isn’t likely to pay off for the Nuggets anyway. I’m pretty certain this is farewell for Rudy and the Nuggets, and quite possibly the NBA as well.

Woj followed up with the latest bit of interesting free agency news today, revealing that Masai Ujiri will meet with JaVale McGee on Monday to talk extension. I expect there to be a pretty competitive market for JaVale’s services, but the Nuggets do have the leverage of restricted free agency and Berger mentioned that JaVale has yet to receive an offer from another team.

As of now, that’s all to report on where the Nuggets currently stand in free agency.  JaVale is obviously the top priority with unrestricted free agent Andre Miller not far behind. Jeremy already did a great job previewing free agency last week, and while I do not mean to rehash his entire post, I’ll bring up a lot of the same points to preview how I think free agency is likely to play out for the Nuggets.

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2010-2011 Game 43: Denver Nuggets 121 Indiana Pacers 107

Box score | Highlights

On November 9th, the Nuggets gave up 144 points in a loss to the Pacers after fumbling away a tough game in Chicago the night before. Regardless of fatigue, it was an embarrassing performance in which Indiana dominated throughout and made their first 20 shots in a 54 point third quarter. Tonight the Nuggets got their opportunity for revenge, with the Pacers on the second game of a back to back this time as their road trip comes to a close in Denver. After a slow start, the Nuggets pass the ball and shoot lights out behind Melo’s 36 points to pay back Indiana with a blowout of their own.

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