JaVale McGee is most well known as the only two-time winner of the “Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP” award. During his time with the Wizards, Nuggets, 76ers, and Dallas Mavericks, JaVale made countless mistakes on both sides of the floor, forcing the casual fan to ask if he even belongs on an NBA floor.
The truth, however, is that JaVale McGee has been an extremely athletic rim-runner with elite defensive potential. It wasn’t until he joined the greatest team in NBA history last year with the Warriors, that he realized that potential completely, almost completely eliminating his silly blunders.
After an impressive season with a limited role on the Warriors, JaVale joined Lebron James on the Lakers. So far this season, McGee has played a huge role in Los Angeles, and could potentially be considered as a candidate for the Most Improved Player award at the end of the season.
The most visible change is the addition of the three-point shot. While he may not be a force from beyond the arc, the threat of having the shot makes everyone else on the court play more smoothly. Instead of screwing up the spacing for Lebron James and Lonzo Ball to drive into the rim, now McGee can at least somewhat draw a defender out to the three-point line to guard him.
McGee’s main improvement came mentally though. Prior to last season, McGee never played on a team with legitimate mentors; his teammates were always similar ages with similar maturity.
In his Washington days, he was playing on pure excitement. He was seven feet tall and lighting fast. He didn’t know how to play basketball; he was just having fun.
Following his time with the Wizards, McGee was traded to Denver where he played with only two players who had played in the NBA for over five seasons. Despite their relative success, McGee still wasn’t improving on his strong athletic base.
After a couple of disappointing seasons in Denver where he couldn’t return to the form shown in Washington, the Nuggets traded the 27-year-old center to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he would be waived after six games. McGee was becoming a journeyman and still hadn’t improved on the skills he displayed in the first couple years of his career.
Following an uneventful season in Dallas, McGee finally found a role with the Golden State Warriors two years ago. In a combined 142 regular season games in the Bay, JaVale learned what it meant to be a real NBA roleplayer. His two seasons in Golden State were his two highest in field goal percentage, and his “Shaqtin’ a Fool” moments were disappearing every single day.
Now in Los Angeles, McGee knows how to compliment Lebron James. He’ll be playing a similar role to what he did in Golden State, except he’ll play exceptionally more minutes, elevating his stats to the next level. Through three games of the season, McGee is already averaging over 15 points and 3 blocks per game; both of which are career highs.