Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
JaVale McGee has embraced a couple different reputations in his five-year NBA tenure. First of all, he's known for his growing list of bloopers, and secondly, he's regarded as a physical specimen whose potential is through the roof.
McGee has raised eyebrows the past few seasons with some stellar production. Consider his per-36 numbers from 2012-13, per Basketball-Reference:
These are All-Star caliber digits, so why did McGee only log 18.1 minutes per game in the Denver Nuggets' rotation last year? There are surely reasons behind this, especially since his coach was George Karl, the 2012-13 Coach of the Year.
While McGee's athleticism enables him to contribute in unique ways, his lack of consistency, focus and intellect strain his influence on a game. This is evident by the fact that Denver outscored the opponent by 6.6 points per-48 minutes when he was off the floor, according to NBA.com/Stats. When he was on the floor, the Nuggets were outscored by 2.2 points.
Furthermore, his defensive rating has always been a concern. He may tally an exorbitant amount of blocks, but his defensive positioning and overall discipline pose problems.
Granted, the Nuggets and his previous team, the Washington Wizards, are subpar defensive clubs, but he still found himself with one of the worst defensive ratings on Denver's roster in 2012-13 (1.08), according to 82games.com. This was also the case in 2011-12, when he played for both the Wizards (1.10) and Nuggets (1.10).
This analysis reveals that McGee's approach needs some fine-tuning. Denver's new coach, Brian Shaw, should eye McGee as one of his priorities. If he has a breakout year, he could not only become one of the league's marquee centers, but he could also help Denver prove they're true contenders in the deep Western Conference.
This process begins with his focus and understanding of the game. If these areas don't mature, then he could remain a quality weapon off the bench but by no means a reliable starter on the verge of superstardom. His hefty contract is certainly anticipating that the latter will unfold, and at 25 years old, the time for this is now.