George Karl's Stubbornness with JaVale McGee Is Killing the Denver Nuggets

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15:  JaVale McGee #34 of the Denver Nuggets looks on as he awaits action against the Miami Heat at the Pepsi Center on November 15, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Heat defeated the Nuggets 98-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Another loss by the Denver Nuggets, and another terrific performance from JaVale McGee. It's becoming an all too familiar sight for Nuggets fans. Simply put, it's time to give him the starting spot.

In Denver's 81-72 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, McGee put up 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocks, all in just 22 minutes on the floor.

How is it that a guy putting up that kind of production ends up playing in less than half of the game? It seems anti-intuitive and detrimental to the team in the long run.

Does it not make sense to play your team's best players to an extent that they'll at least be on the floor for two-thirds of the game, if not three-quarters.

It's a trend that has been extremely puzzling for the Nuggets, but it hasn't stopped.

This season, McGee is having a terrific impact whenever he's on the floor, averaging just under 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and 58.6 percent shooting, all in just 19 minutes a game.

Looking at his per-36 minute averages tells a story of what he could be doing given a real role with the team. 20 points per game, 9.5 rebounds and nearly four blocks per game should be enough incentive for Karl to give the big man more minutes.

If he were on the Chicago Bulls, Tom Thibideau would be running him out there for 40 minutes a game and wishing he could do more. Actually, that's probably not true. Taj Gibson is playing the same number of minutes as McGee, but that's a rant for another day.

Taking a look at guys around the league who are averaging right around 19.3 minutes per game like McGee, we see Sebastian Telfair, Jodie Meeks, Chuck Hayes, Roger Mason Jr., Josh Howard and Norris Cole.

Of those players, the guy that comes closest in terms of player efficiency rating is Jodie Meeks, clocking in at a whopping 12.4, compared to McGee's 22.9.

With that number, JaVale is up there with the likes of Tony Parker as one of the league's most effective and efficient players.

It seems that Karl's beef with McGee is no different than it has been since he came to the team—he's still an immature player.

Now, he's not going out on the floor and deliberately goaltending or running back on defense when his team still has the ball like he used to, but there are still a multitude of mistakes on McGee's end.

With that, Karl seems to favor Kosta Koufos as the primary center with the first unit, mostly because he is a smart basketball player. He's not going to wow anyone, but he's not going to make you throw your palm into your face either.

The +/- numbers with the starting unit seem to reflect that. 

McGee has been on the floor with Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried for just 67 minutes this season. That lineup is posting a staggeringly bad minus-42 in that short amount of time.

Swap Koufos out for McGee and it's a completely different story. That lineup is plus-56 over the course of nearly 350 minutes this season.

That alone should silence the McGee backers, right?

Well, not exactly. I'm here to argue that McGee hasn't gotten a fair shake, not that he's going to immediately improve the Nuggets' starting lineup.

Like I said, he's played just 67 minutes with that starting unit, over five times less than Koufos. That gives him no time to develop chemistry with the backcourt (he and Andre Miller have developed some amazing chemistry), and leaves him in an infinite loop of comfort in fewer minutes per game.

That's a disservice to the team, the ownership, the fans and McGee himself.

We're talking about a guy who is going to be making $44 million over the life of his contract. It's fine if he is in a sixth man role, but that's going to have to amount to at least 30 minutes a game rather than this 19 minute nonsense that he's doing now.

Sure, he still makes mistakes, and he's a much better individual defender than he is a team defender, but there are only so many ways to make him smarter and more in tune with the needs of a team.

One of those ways is to simply give him more minutes, which it seems he not only deserves, but needs.