The Development of Javale McGee: Crucial to Denver’s Championship Aspirations

May 6, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) reacts during the second half of game four against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. The Lakers won 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Javale McGee has instantly become one of my favorite players in the NBA. In addition to helping me out immensely in fantasy basketball for the past 2 seasons and having a milf for a mother (here’s a clip of her getting up close and personal with Dr. J during the 2011 slam dunk contest), he has the ability to amaze for better or worse. If Javale has seen this youtube clip chronicling 8 of his dumbest plays, I’m sure it will make him feel better at night that the individual who edited the video isn’t exactly a genius himself with some of the mistakes made but I digress.

McGee’s fortunes changed for the better as he got traded to a more competent organization, the Denver Nuggets during the 2012 trade deadline in a 3-way deal which brought Nene to Washington and Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers. Javale’s talent has never been in question and GM Masai Ujiri along with the rest of Denver’s organization must have experienced buyer’s remorse in signing Nene to a 5-year, 67 million dollar contract compelling him to pull the trigger on the trade. I’d also experience regrets if I signed a 29 year old big man who isn’t a particularly good defender or has never averaged 15 points or 8 rebounds in a season to a near max extension so props to Ujiri to cutting his losses quick and actually upgrading in the process.

For all the criticism about Javale McGee’s basketball acumen, the man can flat out play the game. He’s a brilliant athlete who probably should have won the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, his creative dunks nor his mother’s buttering up the judges could not change what seemed was a predetermined  decision to have Blake Griffin win as McGee ended up finishing in second place. Javale is very good at protecting the rim as he has finished 2nd in blocked shots the past two seasons and has an emerging offensive game. He is only 24 years old and is signed to a reasonable 4-year, 44 million dollar contract so Nuggets brass also thinks highly of McGee.

Statistically he has improved in each of his first three seasons and his per 36 minutes stats are very impressive since joining the Nuggets, averaging 18 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field. McGee performed strongly in the playoffs as well. Despite losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games, he averaged close to a double double putting up 8.6 points and 9.6 rebounds with 3.1 blocked shots a game in 25.9 minutes. If he can improve his horrific free throw shooting (he shot 45 percent from the stripe in 2011-2012), even greater things may be on the horizon for the young man.

Javale McGee has also shown a commitment to taking his game to higher levels as evidenced by working with NBA all time great Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Hakeem sees great promise in Javale and even went so far as to say McGee should dominate the league in a recent interview with FOX 26 sports. From Mark Berman for  (via PBT ):

“He has tremendous talent. I give him all these moves and he can finish and he’s already skilled. So now just show him how to use that skill to (get) to the next level.” […]

“The moves that we work on are not for a stiff big guy,” Olajuwon said. “With him he’s agile. The move flows. So I’m excited to see what he’s going to do this year.”

Hopefully McGee can incorporate some of his newfound moves into his game for the 2012-2013 season. Coach George Karl does a solid job getting the most out of his players and with a very deep supporting cast including Ty Lawson and newly acquired Andre Iguodala, this Nuggets team is capable of making serious noise and should not be slept on by any means. While most of the off-season talk surrounding the Western Conference is about the new look Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, people would be making a serious mistake if they forget about the Nuggets. If Denver aspires to reach the upper crust of the Western Conference however, McGee must continue to realize his potential and perform at a high level.