Two nights ago the last place Washington Wizards slammed the door shut on the Detroit Pistons' four game win streak, 98-77. The lopsided victory was a surprise to Detroit fans who expected the surging Pistons to win easily. They weren't taking into consideration the man in the middle for Washington: JaVale McGee.
McGee was the reason for the Wizard's easy win. Not only did he lead his team with 22 points and 11 rebounds, he made a significant impact that didn't show up on the stat sheet.
The Pistons shot a combined 32 percent from the field. Their guards fared even worse going 6-for-36. The reason for the lousy shooting night was the presence of McGee, who planted himself in the lane whenever Detroit's guards tried to drive. He only had 2 blocks, but he disrupted nearly every shot that came his way.
Detroit's scorers were frustrated and it showed. Greg Monroe was the only Piston to successfully take him on. He led all scorers with 27 points, but McGee's size and physicality took it's toll on him too. He led the team with six turnovers.
I'm sure Joe Dumars took notice of McGee's game changing performance. It's exactly the kind of player the Pistons need to improve their team and move forward in the rebuilding process.
Detroit would love to get that type of player with their first pick in this year's draft. Unfortunately that strategy has too many holes. The draft's marquee big men—Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis—will surely be gone by the time Detroit drafts. Most of the other choices aren't legitimate NBA centers. They're tweeners who either play a perimeter game or fit better at the power forward position.
Those guys won't provide the Pistons the kind of presence they need down low. Perry Jones has potential, but no motor. Ohio State's Jared Sulinger has the physicality, but he lacks the size to go with it. Detroit doesn't need another Austin Daye or Jason Maxiell.
They need someone like JaVale McGee. He's gotten better each year in the league and he's been the second best shot blocker in the NBA the last two years. He would've gotten All-Star consideration this year if he played for a better team.
For some reason Washington declined to sign the 24-year-old to a long term extension last month which means he'll be a restricted free agent this summer. In this article on MLive.com he made his disappointment known.
No one knows why Washington chose to do this, but it would be hard to believe if they let him walk. As a restricted free agent McGee can sign an offer sheet with another team and the Wizards have the right of first refusal, meaning they can match any deal.
This might be the reason they held off on signing him to a long term deal.
With that said, the idea of the Pistons landing this top free agent is not a pipe dream. There are reasons why the they have a legitimate chance to sign him
Detroit's biggest obstacle has always been getting free agents to buy into the city itself. This might not be an issue with McGee.
He's a Flint native and played High School basketball at Detroit Country Day before transferring to a school in Chicago. Being closer to home might be attractive to him.
Secondly, the Wizards might not want to re-sign him. His relationship with the front office and his coaches has been rocky. In 2008, his rookie year, McGee was fined for his role in the Gilbert Arenas locker room debacle. That wasn't a great way for a rookie to ingratiate himself to a team or a city.
When Flip Saunders was fired last month, the reason given was that his players tuned him out. Most pointed at McGee as one of the players leading the revolt.
Finally, the Wizards have already suffered the consequences of overpaying for star players—Arenas, Rashard Lewis and Andre Blatche. They might be drawing a line with McGee. His agent will ask for max money and the team knows it. Maybe this is one investment they aren't going to make, choosing instead to save their resources for John Wall.
Can the Pistons pay this kind of money? No one really knows. With Detroit's new ownership the financial standing of this team is murky at best. What a coup it would be for Pistons owner Tom Gores to lure McGee away from Washington though.
The move would instantly improve the team and put more fans in the Palace of Auburn Hills seats. Isn't that what Gores wants?
We know Joe Dumars is serious about winning and he has to be targeting McGee for offseason consideration. If so, we'll see how serious Gores is if he writes the check.