[Wizards 2010-11 Player Preview Index: Gilbert Arenas, Hilton Armstrong, Andray Blatche,
Trevor Booker, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, Yi Jianlian, JaVale McGee, Kevin Seraphin,
Al Thornton, John Wall, Nick Young.]
-by Stephen D. Riley
It wasn’t hard to spot JaVale McGee’s mom dukes in the crowd at the Las Vegas Summer League this past July. Pamela McGee is an attractive woman, so the cameraman made sure to give her plenty of face time. Commentators went on and on about the second overall draft pick of the 1997 WNBA Draft and how the former USC standout used to run with Cynthia Cooper and Cheryl Miller back in her heyday. Broadcasters referenced how the two McGees share the only mother-son relationship between the NBA and WNBA, so naturally, basketball browsers assumed that JaVale got his athletic ability from his mom. But did you know that JaVale’s father, George Montgomery, was a pretty good hoopster in his own right?
Montgomery was the second round draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1985. Although he never played a minute in the league, Montgomery’s B-Ball career pre-NBA was pretty noteworthy. The 6’8” forward was a city All-Star for Chicago’s Corliss High School in the late ‘70s before attending the University of Illinois and playing alongside 16-year NBA veteran Derek Harper. Montgomery’s college career was pretty forgettable, however, with 114 career games and an average of 7.2 points per contest. Feeble figures aside, to Wizards fans, Montgomery’s most notable contribution to the NBA, although he never played a second: the ultra-athletic JaVale McGee, who happens to star at center for the District’s Washington Wizards.
-by Kyle Weidie
Have you ever wondered about question mark sizing? Me neither. What on earth is it anyway? Well, I’ll try my best tell you (because it’s something that I just made up).
Question mark sizing is an estimate of the potential surrounding one’s purported talents when gauging a possible future. The answer, which no stat of Dave Berri’s will ever tell you, is unknown, just like the future. But we at least know three things — things that will influence the size of JaVale McGee’s question mark going into this season:
1) Growth and realization. Does McGee realize that his talents are extra, extra special, but not that special without proper implementation? No satisfaction with thinking you are working hard would be a start for a budding NBA player. And actually, I believe McGee has learned this lesson (along with diagnosing and properly treating his asthma), and that he’s actually a good kid who’s still adjusting to mass exposure to the media, which he struggles with.
2) A Wall. Not a wall that’s blocking McGee’s development, but one that’s opening windows. There is a lot to say for McGee never playing with a point guard willing to pass (well, not like Gilbert Arenas wasn’t … that’s more of a myth), although that doesn’t exactly excuse McGee from not listening in the past. But now, as I witnessed via the Las Vegas Summer League, I really believe McGee’s maturation and relationship developed with Wall will surprise people around the league. It almost induces giddiness.
3) Mr. International. What effect will McGee’s experience with Team USA have? America’s national team was relatively young this time around, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t professionals from whom McGee could better learn how to conduct himself. And also, Chauncey Billups, who was often seen in McGee’s ear during exhibition matches, isn’t that young.
Now, the question is, do these summertime experiences make the question mark surrounding McGee’s future smaller, or do they bring more expectations, thus making his question mark bigger? Your move JaVale.
-by Arish Narayen
When I started writing this section on ‘Epic Vale,’ I started by trying to think of clever, pop culture references which were in some way related to JaVale McGee. As I thought of marginally-related actors/musicians/entertainers, I drew a blank. No matter how hard I tried, I kept coming back to the same comparison. The word was like a splinter in my mind, driving me insane. It’s the only comparison which JaVale would likely deem worthy of respect (and worthy of his Twitter’s namesake): Wookie.
Now, I’m not saying JaVale was the guy in the Chewbacca suit in Star Wars. That would be physically impossible. However, what I am saying is this: JaVale is the Wizards’ Chewbacca.
Think about it. Considering the development of chemistry between John Wall and McGee during Summer League, then if McGee = Chewy, then John Wall = Han Solo. The parallels are undeniable: JaVale is known to pull arms out of sockets when he loses; Wall can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs using just his legs; JaVale resembles a big walking carpet; etc.
The symbiotic relationship between Chewbacca and Han Solo is similar to the symbiotic development of JaVale and J-Wall. As in the movies, if these two are going to accomplish anything, it will be together. Now, lets just hope Wall doesn’t get frozen in carbonite.
-by Kyle Weidie
Okay, close your eyes. Wait, don’t close your eyes … you have to read. But imagine McGee on a team where he doesn’t have to force shots. Where he doesn’t have to shoot the ball … Every. Time. He. Touches. It.
If it’s hard to imagine, I can’t blame you. Because if McGee threw up shots like that on a crappy team last year, he could very well find the anxious need to do the same this year on a slightly better team (but with less overall talent, at this juncture) — because if he doesn’t “get” his, he’s got to “make” his, right?
If Arish compared John Wall to Hans Solo in order to tame McGee’s inner Wookie, then perhaps I should add Obi-Wan Kenobi to Wall’s growing list of responsibilities, as a 19-year old, because he could be JaVale McGee’s only hope … as a respected point guard who makes him adhere to offensive plans.
I intensely investigated McGee’s offensive influence on the court during the 2009-10 season in early May using Synergy Sports Technology. So no need for a big re-hash now, but let’s recap …. in bullet form:
- McGee’s numbers on “bad” offensive plays (ones he tries to create for himself) that end with him taking a shot, turning the ball over, or getting to the free-throw line — including: spot-ups, isolations, post-ups, and “all other plays” — amount to 0.58 points per possession (PPP), 37.8-percent on field-goals, and a 29.4-percent turnover rate.
- McGee’s numbers on “good” offensive plays (ones he allows ball handlers to create for him) that end with the same described results — including: cuts, transition, and P&R man — amount to 1.25 PPP, 66.7-percent on FGs and a 7.3-percent turnover rate.
On Thursday Ernie Grunfeld said that McGee was “developing some nice low-post moves.” Of course, development and putting that into practice are two different things. Maybe the seven pounds of added muscle will help McGee improve his ability to hold post position, but will it also help him with the game’s nuances, such as leverage, and habits, like rebounding with two hands? We will see. I just hope McGee just isn’t a version of New Coke or worse, the Neck Basket.
-by Arish Narayen
From what I’ve observed, Wizards’ fans are in agreement about few things regarding the future of this team. I think these disagreements mostly stem from one thing: there are some polarizing figures on this roster. For example, some fans want Gilbert Arenas in Washington until his contract is up, while others fervently believe Gil should have been traded before The Event Which Shall Not Be Named. Some see Andray Blatche as a selfish scorer who cares little for defense, while others think that, given the minutes, ‘Dray has the potential to be a Top 10 power forward in the League.
However, Washington’s faithful seem to agree on a few, very precious things. First, John Wall, of 81 Overall fame, will almost certainly be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. And second, JaVale McGee has the potential to be a dominant post player.
In this year’s NBA Summer League, Epic Vale looked every bit the part of a player who has the ability to impose his will in the paint. Obviously, Summer League games do not really emphasize defense. But McGee’s unique combination of frame, size, and athleticism cannot be denied. In DraftExpress’s excellent review of McGee doing work in Las Vegas, Matt Kamalsky captured the essence of JaVale’s performances:
“As was the case last year, more often than not, JaVale McGee‘s frame is simply too much for many defenders to handle at this level. He’s able to release shots around the rim with ease, use his huge strides to beat his defender to the rim, and offers a giant target for his teammates to pass to when they are looking to create. Over the course of the four games he played in Las Vegas, McGee shot nearly 70% from the field. When he was able to catch the ball with his defender recovering or within a few feet of the rim, his length and leaping ability did the rest, resulting in a handful of highlight plays and his exceptional shooting percentage.”
Vale’s game is certainly not devoid of criticism. On defense, many commentators have cited McGee’s tendency
to take himself out of a play on the defensive end by biting on shot fakes, or otherwise getting himself out of position. Such missteps lead to fouls, and fouls lead to the bench. On offense, some cite his raw offensive skills, as his post-moves and counter-moves are still a work-in-progress
In my mind, these are problems with a remedy: the post-defense thing is mostly a mental fix, and on offense, Big Daddy Wookie has all the physical tools. Vale just needs his own Giant Man Coach, like Patrick Ewing is for Dwight Howard. McGee’s future will be determined by his work ethic (which, I would presume, is very high given his seemingly positive Team USA experience), the coaching he receives, and the amount of touches he gets. Of these issues, I am worried most about that last one. All cynicism aside, this is still a starting rotation which will feature Gilbert Arenas, Josh Howard, and Andray Blatche. Opportunities for McGee to develop his post-scoring ability may not be plentiful. I could be wrong, but I’m definitely not alone in this assessment.
Even if Epic Vale’s Usage-Percentage is third or fourth on the team, he has an excellent chance to be a 10 and 10 guy this year, and a reasonable chance of being a 15 and 10 guy if he can stay on the floor. In the end, one thing is for sure: Wizards’ fans can’t wait to see how the Wall-McGee chemistry develops on the court.
-by Kyle Weidie
I don’t know why I put my name in the byline of this section, ’cause I’m about to get lazy on this one. Here are JaVale McGee’s “perfect plays”: