Time running out for JaVale McGee to realize potential
The JaVale McGee experiment in Denver will be put on hold for an unknown period of time after it was revealed the hyper-athletic center has a stress fracture in his left tibia.
McGee was promoted to the starting center role when Brian Shaw was hired as coach in June, and expectations were lofty for the 25-year-old coming into the season. But brows were raised when McGee only averaged 15.9 minutes in the first five games, the fourth lowest of any Nugget who has stepped on the court.
There is a sense of relief in the revelation of McGee’s injury. We now know that his basketball IQ and chronic asthma were not the lead contributors holding his development back. Whew. We’re also now aware that JaVale was not negotiating a lucrative, long-term deal to secure the leading role in Shaqtin’ A Fool. The Nuggets say McGee was feeling intense pain and was basically playing on one leg in the early stage of the season. Even so, he was still able to pull off a few immortal jams and fly-swatting blocks that have made his value high enough to keep on the roster despite his deficiencies. (Oh, and that four-year, $44 million contract saves him a spot in lineup as well.)
There are few fifth-year players in the NBA that still have as high of a ceiling as McGee; few with such a large margin between where they are as a player now and where they could be if their full potential is reached. We’ve seen both the highlights and the boneheaded plays from McGee. He’s physically gifted and can do things on the court that no one else in the NBA can do. We get it. When he returns healthy let’s see some back-to-the-basket moves, more sky-hooks, and a few Dream Shakes he learned over the summer from Hakeem Olajuwon. Show us some big-man footwork.
McGee will be evaluated in the coming days to determine when he can get back on the court. While he’s only played five games this season, this will be a needed breather for McGee to sit back, rehab, and evaluate his potential. In one to two years he won’t be a young, athletic specimen that the Nuggets will wait on to develop as a project. When McGee returns he should consider this season a career defining year. If he can manage to put everything together, he’s automatically one of the five best centers in the league. If he can’t, he should be content on being a high-energy backup center. It may be asking too much and the roof could already been built on McGee’s potential, but he leaves us wanting so much more.