It looks like Etan Thomas will be the starter on opening night (despite Brendan's protests) and while I think that he earned that spot, no player had a more captivating preseason than JaVale McGee. If nothing else, we got a feel for the rookie's Dwight Howard-like athleticism that made him the #18 pick in the draft.
Now I know some of you out there haven't been watching a lot of preseason basketball (we don't judge here) but I don't want to head into regular season without giving you a feel for McGee's unique skill set and show you a couple of areas where he still needs some work. To do that, let's take a look at some of his highlight reels from Nevada and I'll direct you to the points of interest.
1:00 - Back before the draft many people thought Roy Hibbert would be a great fit for the Princeton because he's such a great passer and the Princeton offense becomes so much more explosive when your big man can rack up assists. Here you can see JaVale show off his passing ability. It's not exactly a traditional pass and I doubt it will ever come into play in this offense, but it's nice to see that he can make some nice passes.
However, it's also worth noting that McGee didn't have an assist during the preseason, so let's not too far ahead of ourselves.
1:18 - This will probably be the best and most infuriating part of JaVale's rookie season. His speed and length give him the ability to block perimeter shots and finish on the other end if he can collect the blocked shot. The problems will come in when he goes out to try to block shots he has no business going after. You can see a case of it here when he goes out to block McGuire (a guy who can only hurt you if you let him get to the basket), Taser promptly pump fakes and is able to drive the lane that JaVale vacated. As he develops he has to learn when to go for those blocks and when to lay back.
1:45 - That's a 7 footer beating everybody down the court on a fastbreak. Like I said, he's got a unique skill set.
1:56 - Other than Arenas, Butler, and Young I'm not sure anyone else on the team can pull that move off.
2:18 - He didn't show it during the preseason, but McGee does have 3 pt. range. He only hit 33% during college, so it's not something you want as the staple in the offense, but we might be able to use it a little more than we did with Calvin Booth.
0:58 - Check how high he gets on that block. The kid has some excellent hops. Not quite as good as Nick Young's, but Nick Young isn't 7 feet tall.
2:31 - Here JaVale pulls in a rebound, then goes down to the other end, takes the ball at the top of the key and drives inside, whips the ball BEHIND HIS BACK to the open teammate for the dunk.
3:03 - See him pull down that rebound one-handed with his fingertips. So he's got Dwight Howard's height and Desmond Howard's hands.
3:39 - Javale McGee has a 7'6" wingspan. I think the young man that just sprawled into the crowd just found that out.
4:38 - This play more or less speaks for itself.
5:08 - On one hand, this is great. How many 7 footers do you know that can hit fadeaway bank shots like that? On the other hand, after looking at the previous highlight, you wonder why he would ever want to settle for a fadeaway.
Clearly, we're not dealing with a stiff here. Only time will tell if he can put it all his gifts together and be a productive player, but I have to say I'm feeling better and better about this guy.