Evaluating JaVale McGee in 2008-09
Wizards player evaluations for ‘08-09 continue, up fifth is JaVale McGee. My thoughts are below, you can check on the full report on Bullets Forever.
I’ve long thought that it was Ernie Grunfeld who made me eat crow after NBA Draft night 2008. But really, it was JaVale McGee. Ok, Grunfeld had big hand in serving what was fed to me. That’s why he’s the general manager with a team of trusted scouts and we are the blogger/fan people. But it was JaVale McGee who made the meal, proving us all wrong.
On that June 26 evening, positive comments about McGee were virtually non-existent. I was immediately calling him Patrick O’Bryant Part Deux, but later calmed down, thinking that I’d found some sort of positive in his bloodline.
Still, the next day, over 55% of us (on Bullets Forever) were giving the Wizards’ draft a D or an F (the sale of Billy Walker to the Celtics also having some effect on opinions). We all wanted a player who we thought could come in and contribute right away … a Darrell Arthur, a Mario Chalmers. Those guys had decent rookie seasons, especially Chalmers who was voted second team all-rookie, but I’m glad we got the 7’1″ kid (in socks) with helicopter arms, pogo stick hops, and a willingness to hustle.
When initially assessing McGee’s season, most are probably thinking, “Aww man, McGee should have played a LOT more … that damn Ed Tapscott, and to some extent, Eddie Jordan. How DARE they play the likes of Darius Songaila or Etan Thomas (when healthy) over McGee?”
Well yea, Epic Vale aka The Choppa aka Lemon Head could have played more, and I wouldn’t have minded. But c’mon guys … 1) There are many things the coaching staff observes beyond the games which we aren’t privy too, and fans don’t always respect that enough; 2) McGee was getting pushed around in the paint, a lot. You can’t just throw a guy into the fire and let him get burned over and over again. McGee did not have NBA conditioning. His high energy was better released in spurts, not necessarily all at once; and 3) Playing time is great, but believe it or not, many things can also be learned by observing from the bench … especially by a guy new to the league.
With McGee, we’ve gone from assumed draft night bust to a piece that’s fairly close to untouchable (and now right back in the draft, 13 picks higher, and yearning for the same need of immediate veteran help and not another project). We’re a fickle bunch, aren’t we?
The positives we take are that after receiving more playing time than expected, McGee is ahead of schedule. The two biggest areas he needs to work on is strength and feel for the game …. commodities easily earned with time served. All we can hope for is that the kid continues to stay hungry, turning all that potential into a force to be reckoned with.
JaVale McGee 08-09 per 36 minutes stats:
Rebounds: 9.3 (3.8 offensive, 5.5 defensive)
[photos via flickr/Keith Allison]
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