The Golden State Warriors have a reputation as one of the NBA’s most joyous and watchable teams, but this summer has threatened to make their 2016-17 season deathly serious. The acquisition of Kevin Durant has cast them as villains, to the point where many of the same NBA fans who looked upon the Warriors with awe throughout their 73-win season will watch them in the hope of seeing them lose this year. Anything less than a title will make the season a failure, and they’ll probably feel that pressure at various points from October through June.
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If the Warriors need a dash of levity, it’s probably not going to come from their bench. While Sixth Man of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala is still around (potentially as a starter), fun veterans like Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa have been replaced by the permanent scowl of David West and a full season of expert flopper Anderson Varejao. Rookie Patrick McCaw impressed at Summer League and could bring some fun, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be in the rotation.
Thankfully, a potential savior arrived on Friday. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Warriors have agreed to a make-good contract with center JaVale McGee that will allow him a chance to earn a roster spot in training camp:
The Golden State Warriors are inviting veteran center JaVale McGee to training camp in a bid to address their need for a rim protector, according to league sources. […]
The Warriors have since signed Zaza Pachulia and David West and re-signed Anderson Varejao, but they have decided to gamble on the athletic McGee in hopes they can unearth a rotation player and add a shot-blocker to the roster.
It’s a sensible move for the Warriors. McGee’s inconsistencies and penchant for Shaqtin’ A Fool appearances are well known, but he has enough talent to make an All-Star team if he ever figures out a way to … oh wait, sorry, I blacked out there for a second. At 28 years old, McGee is not the raw project who got fans and coaches to stay optimistic during his time with the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets. JaVale is what he is — an error-prone seven-footer with enough natural talent to contribute as a reserve rim protector and rebounder. No one is ready to put much faith in him anymore, which is why he settled for a camp invitation with a title contender instead of finding a guaranteed deal.
But McGee can help. With Draymond Green extremely unlikely to play more than 15 or 20 minutes per game at center during the regular season, Golden State needs all the backup centers it can find. Pachulia should be able to play serviceable minutes, and West can probably grab minutes in the paint here and there even if he’s a much better fit for Marreese Speights’s old role as a mid-range scorer. Varejao should see some time, too, but he gets injured often and sees his already limited skills diminish with every passing year. If McGee impresses in camp, he can stick as an end-of-bench option who comports himself well in garbage time and maybe even sidles into the rotation after a few months.
He could also help as a locker room presence, which might seem odd given that JaVale is commonly thought of as a distraction. Yet McGee is nothing if not loose, and his looseness could prove valuable on a roster with lots of pressure from Durant’s arrival and their collapse against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. It’s silly to expect JaVale to do much on the court, but his inherent goofiness could be of some service.
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