Denver Nuggets: How George Karl Can Make JaVale McGee an All-Star in 2012-13
McGee has always had considerable upside, but in his first few years he was denied the proper coaching he needs to maximize his potential. Fortunately, McGee now has the chance to learn under the offensive genius of George Karl.
Karl is sure to focus on developing his promising young center next season, and the veteran coach can do wonders for McGee as long as his pupil is willing to learn.
McGee is primed for a breakout season and looks like a legitimate All-Star candidate at the center position. But in order to become a true star, he will need Karl’s help along the way.
A Greater Offensive Role
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This may seem obvious, but if McGee is to become an All-Star in his fifth NBA season, he will need to up his offensive production significantly. In order for that to happen, Karl will need to make McGee a greater priority on offense.
In the past, McGee has primarily played the role of shot-blocker, with most of his points coming off of alley-oops or putback dunks. However, he showed great offensive improvement last season and is likely to improve even further after a summer of dedicated work.
McGee has the potential to create major mismatches with opposing centers due to his agility, extension and creativity, and he should be at least a top-three option for the Nuggets next season offensively.
Opportunities in the Post
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The Nuggets are primarily an uptempo team, and there’s no doubt that the transition game should be the focus for Denver next season.
However, George Karl must slow it down once in a while in order to take advantage of McGee’s developing post skills.
McGee worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer in the hopes of adding an arsenal of post moves to his already formidable length and finishing ability. And based on some glowing praise from the Dream himself, it's safe to assume those workouts were very productive.
McGee should have a much-expanded post game going into next season, and in order to have the best chance of attaining stardom, he will need to be given opportunities to operate on the block.
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After being traded to Denver last season, McGee improved his production significantly but saw his minutes drop to just 20.7 per game. While this drop can be partially attributed to the issue of adjusting to a new system, McGee also has plenty of competition at the center position in Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos.
Mozgov and Koufos are both solid big men, but McGee has more talent and upside than both of them combined. Karl must trust McGee with full starter’s minutes next season in order to maximize that potential and make McGee into the star Olajuwon believes he can be.
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With Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala all willing and able to run the pick-and-roll, Karl must emphasize the play within the Nuggets’ half-court offense. McGee’s length, agility and finishing ability make him an ideal pick-and-roll partner, and Karl can get plenty of easy points for his squad by offering McGee open lanes to the rim.
McGee is an outstanding dunker, but he lacks any semblance of a jump shot, which is one thing that could hold him back from being an effective scorer off the pick-and-roll.
Karl should further work with McGee on developing some sort of close-range shot (or even a floater similar to that of Antawn Jamison's) to maximize his effectiveness while rolling to the hoop.
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McGee began his career as a fairly decent foul shooter (at least for a rookie center), but his free-throw percentage has dropped steadily in each season since, finally reaching an abysmal 46 percent last season.
Such a horrendous free-throw percentage simply won’t cut it, especially if McGee is to have any hope of making the All-Star team.
Although McGee’s awful percentage is primarily his fault, Karl must make a concerted effort to work with McGee on his form next season in order to get that percentage back above 60 percent.
McGee’s fundamentals are clearly lacking, and Karl should push McGee to improve both his accuracy from the foul stripe and his shooting in general.