When you think JaVale McGee, his extensive blooper reel is probably what comes to mind. The journeyman center has been a staple on Shaquille O’Neal’s segment “Shaqtin’ A Fool” for some incredibly low IQ plays.
The goofy, lanky seven-footer will always be infamous for some of his boneheaded antics from earlier in his career. In recent years, however, McGee has quietly put some of those criticisms to bed.
I think this upcoming season will prove McGee’s maturation has turned him into a solid and very important player for the Los Angeles Lakers. After LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers have a lot of questions when it comes to production, and I think McGee will be a big part of the answer.
On Wednesday night, in their preseason matchup against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers opened the second half with some trickery. To shake former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, McGee faked a leg injury and walked off the court. This prompted Green to switch onto ball handler Anthony Davis, which opened up McGee for a wide open dunk when he scampered back onto the court.
As odd as the play was, it was really ingenious. As much as he’s improved offensively, McGee doesn’t stand a chance against a defender of Green’s caliber, but a little trickery got him a wide open bucket.
With James and Davis on his team, a large amount of points won’t be an important contribution from McGee on a regular basis. But his ability to protect the rim and that savvy playmaking he’s been showing at times is what he brings to the Lakers.
Last season with the Lakers, McGee was one of the few consistent pieces for a team riddled by injuries. McGee had a career year, scoring at 12.0 points per game on 62.4% from the field, and was consistent rim protector with 2.0 blocks per game in just 22.3 minutes per game.
If the preseason is any indication of McGee’s role for the upcoming season, he will still have a decent role as occasional starter behind Davis. McGee is averaging 9.6 points per game on 70.9% through five preseason games, as well as 6.8 rebounds per game.
In all likelihood McGee will see his playtime drop quite a bit after the addition of Davis, but McGee is poised to serve as a solid backup big man for the Lakers. I think his contributions are extremely important to a potential playoff run for the Lakers this season. Considering how big of a goof he was at the beginning of his career, his maturation into a key player on a potential NBA champion is really impressive.
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