Me & JaVale McGee: Skyrocket in Flight or Ice Cream Delight? | Wizards Blog Truth About

Me & JaVale McGee: Skyrocket in Flight or Ice Cream Delight?

Updated: July 11, 2008

As you probably know, the Washington Wizards have signed their 2008 draft pick, 18th overall JaVale McGee, to a rookie scale contract….just in time for a two-day mini-camp, which started today in DC, and so he can be ready for the Las Vegas NBA Summer League on the 14th.

How ready is this kid to capitalize on his potential in the National Basketball Association? If having four capital letters between his first and last names is any indication, then I would say that he’s well on his way to success sooner than later.

In all seriousness, before the Washington Wizards selected JaVale McGee in the 2008 NBA Draft, I knew nothing of the young man out of the University of Nevada, save that he carried the label of “soft.” This was enough to cause distain and shock within on draft night. But now that the dust has settled and I’ve had a chance to educate myself, what do I think of Mr. McGee?

Who you callin’ soft?
Draft Express uses terms such as soft, extremely weak physically, atrocious defender, bust, toughness, and hustle in it’s weaknesses ‘at a glance’ section.

At my first look, this assessment becomes questionable as ‘Basketball IQ’ is also listed as one of McGee’s weaknesses. You’re telling me that a kid who sat courtside in a stroller while his mom balled in Italy, and later as a youngster in Sacramento, lacks knowledge of the game? (In case you didn’t know, both McGee’s father and mother played college ball, the latter getting run professionally overseas and in the WNBA.) As JaVale himself puts it, he was “dribbling out of the womb.”

So who else has Draft Express mentioned as ‘soft’ (in one way or another)? Jermareo Davidson, Brook Lopez, Julian Wright, Dominic McGuire, Rudy Gay, Charlie Villanueva, and many, many Euros, etc…. Ok, so it seems like big men with dominant perimeter skills are soft. Is this a high percentage estimation, or a convenient assessment? I really can’t answer until I see the guy play myself.

One thing McGee’s mother has stated is that she trained him with a “European approach,” teaching him to play outside-in. Nothing wrong with that….just look at the trend of the game, and the Wizards offense. I’ll gladly take a guy with not only the ability to spread the court with his shooting on offense, but also with his shot blocking on defense. Should McGee develop into a paint stopper, guards on his team can rest assured of the protection behind them, even if McGee just ends up being Marcus Camby Lite in that category.

I guess, in my opinion, that because of the Wizards system, McGee need not be a banger on offense, although that would be very, very nice, as long as he doesn’t back down on defense.

For the love of the game?
Another thing I’m unsure of is McGee’s passion for the game of basketball. Sure, he grew up immersed in the sport, but that doesn’t mean that basketball wasn’t forced upon him, or that he wasn’t pigeonholed into the game because of his god-given size.

By most accounts, JaVale is a soft-spoken young man….which is a good thing. Intense passion is not a prerequisite for being a good player, although, it seems like if one has intensity, and the ability to control passion, then the chances of success would be greater. Even so, I’m not sure how to react to the fact that his mom gave him the nickname, “The Big Secret,” and that she is purported to have written her son’s profile on….at least that’s what Deadspin said, which was dually noted by the DC Sports Bog. But if you go to the site, it doesn’t say anything about JaVale’s mom writing the profile.

The most interesting, and perhaps valid, perspective that I’ve read on JaVale McGee has come from a commenter on a Reno Gazette-Journal blog (which did not endorse McGee’s foray into the NBA).

unbballfan said:

“Let me first say I am a big Javale Mcgee and UN basketball fan and have seen every game for many years. ……..Javale is full of RAW talent and tremendous potential, but so far, he has displayed a ZERO basketball IQ. Sure, he may get 3-4 spectacular blocks per game, but he also commits as many or more stupid plays, turnovers, etc. not to mention the career highs to opposing smaller, slower post players. Javale needs to learn to be aware of what’s going on around him on the basketball court, to quit pounding his chest when rebounding an airball, and to quit making faces like a child when things don’t go his way. Javale, you’re A man. Someday you will be THE man. But for now, whipe the looks off your face, learn to play as tall as you are, and don’t even think about the next level……..”

Am I still a tad skeptical of the pick (not necessarily the player)? Sure I am, especially when Mario Chalmers (the guy I wanted) seems to be blowing up. Wizards fans, myself included, surely have toned down their dissent since draft night….might as well support the kid, right?

It’s just my opinion that McGee wasn’t a “win now” pick. But oh well, I’m trusting Ernie Grunfeld on this one, despite what others have said. Gruns has made me eat my words before…..(I thought that he should have gotten more from the Lakers for Kwame Brown, and that the stipulations on the Juan Carlos Navarro trade were ridiculous — and look how those situations turned out). Ernie seems to be pretty adept at finding players suitable for immediate success while building for the future.

Pictures of droopy McGee and o
ld man JaVale
don’t exactly provide inspiration. But in any case, if JaVale McGee works as hard as Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan have challenged him to do, then DC will get behind the guy. The Wizards summers will play their first game against the Blazers squad in Vegas on July 14th. Good luck JaVale…..the blogosphere will be watching.

Must Reads:

Five Things Awaiting JaVale McGee’s NBA Debut
[Stet Sports Blog]

Wanna get the down-low on the Wizards Summer League roster?
Go to Bullets Forever and check this post, then this post.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.