Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee is known for many things, including but not limited to running the wrong way when his team had the ball, riding around Denver on a Segway long after the vehicle was considered an acceptable mode of transportation, and playing songs from "Willy Wonka" on the piano. Yet McGee is also talented enough that his zanier exploits don't entirely crowd out his ability on the court. Due to his athleticism and energy, JaVale continues to excite NBA observers with his potential as a game-changer in the paint. He may never become an All-Star, but he could end up as one of the most effective centers in the league.
For the 2013-14 season, McGee apparently has plans to prove that he's more than just an athletic dynamo. In a new interview with Jeff Caplan for NBA.com (via EOB), JaVale says he plans to show off a jumper and more offensive moves:
“I’m definitely getting that feeling from the coaches that I’m going to be more of an impact and getting more minutes,” said McGee, who enters his sixth NBA season and second full season in Denver after 3 ½ oddball years with Washington. “It’s really up to the coach as to how he wants to use me. It’s up to me to work and everything, and I’m going to do that. So if I work hard and I come prepared and in shape for training camp, there’s nothing that can stop me but the coach.”
McGee, 25, is eager to get started. He returned to Denver earlier this month to begin working with Shaw and the new coaching staff. He said he sees an offense that will station him at the elbow to begin sets and will allow him to work the low post and also stretch the defense with a mid-range jumper he said the league has yet to really lay eyes on, but one, he added, he can drain from 17 feet and in. [...]
“I definitely have post moves. I have a mid-range shot that I really never got to use my whole career in the NBA,” McGee said. “Coach Karl didn’t want his ‘bigs’ shootings at all. [Defenses are] probably going to leave me open for the mid-range, so I definitely got to take that shot.”
I can believe that JaVale hits jumpers in practices and workouts, and that he works on various post moves and actually has the ability to convert them in game situations. It wouldn't be terribly surprising to see a few of these moves over the course of the season, if only because the Nuggets' new coaching staff needs to get a sense of their high-priced center's full range of skills. Sure, a few of these shots may end up stuck on top of the shot clock, but that's the price of giving JaVale McGee playing time.
Of course, it's also worth considering that George Karl may have had a very good point in not allowing McGee to take these jumpers on a regular basis. With potential-laden players like JaVale, it's easy to get caught up in the scope of their futures and not focus on the more concrete possibilities of the present. McGee could feasibly become a dominant center, but it's a lot more likely that he can improve his shot-blocking, rebounding, and finishing ability. If he does any two of those things at a stellar level, he would justify his contract and become one of the best centers in the NBA. It's not as if he has to be a boom-bust player, because he's really not that far off from being very good.
In other words, working on a jumper may be putting the cart before the horse. The Nuggets only need a dependable center, not a once-in-a-generation talent. That lofty accomplishment can come later.