Super-Secret Stat: JaVale McGee’s on-court/off-court splits as a member of the Denver Nuggets in both the regular season and playoffs in terms of offensive and defense ratings, rebounding percentages, and pace factors.
Analysis: There was major initial head-scratching at last season’s trade deadline when the Nuggets shipped the newly-signed Nene off to Washington in exchange for the crazy-talented and just plain crazy JaVale McGee. Why break up the foundation of a promising core, especially to acquire a big risk like McGee? Then Nene was out a few more weeks with injury, the NBA world looked at his contract numbers, and it appeared Denver avoided a player that could become a salary cap albatross and got one that gave them some major flexibility in the future.
Fast forward to now and McGee is a key piece of the renovated Nuggets’ plans. He signed a four-year, 44 million dollar contract with Denver as restricted free agent in July, a reasonable contract for a player with McGee’s extremely rare size and physical gifts. True bigs are always overpaid in the offseason, and there was some thought that the Nuggets would be forced to overpay the mercurial youngster after his breakout playoff performance against the Lakers. Instead, GM Masai Ujiri – the league’s best front office man, perhaps? – locked McGee up at a fair price given his current level as a player, and as a potential bargain if he continues the rapid development he showed in May.
McGee’s value has always been a hot-button topic in the league. Despite his prodigious size and athleticism and flashes of tangible skill, his actual on-floor impact was never positive as a member of the Wizards. Most interesting was his play defensively, as McGee is arguably the league’s best shot-blocker and easily grabs double-digit rebounds on occasion, but advanced statistics painted his overall influence as a net negative.
Did the trends that plagued McGee as a Wizard follow him to Denver? Were his individual playoff numbers indicative of his real on-court value? Can he run with Ty Lawson and the breakneck Nuggets? Check out the graphs below – original creations, by the way – and see for yourself.