2010/11 Washington Wizards Player Evaluation: JaVale McGee

Over the next few weeks, we will be evaluating the 2010/11 seasons of all the players who ended the year on the Wizards' roster.  We'll offer our quick thoughts, then ask you to grade their season on a 1-10 scale in the comments.  For the purposes of this exercise, we'll start with the key players and work our way down. Next in line: JaVale McGee


JaVale McGee

#34 / Center / Washington Wizards

7-0

252

Jan 19, 1988

Nevada

Years in NBA: 3

Contract status: $2.5M next season, restricted free agent with a $3.5M QO after 2012. Can sign to an early extension before 10/31/11 under current CBA rules



FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2010 - JaVale McGee 79 27.7 4.2 7.6 55.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.9 58.3 2.8 5.2 8.0 0.5 1.3 0.5 2.4 2.9 10.1

Key advanced stat: Despite his blocked shots, McGee actually barely made a difference for the Wizards' defensive efficiency when he was on the floor (110.1 with him on vs. 110.4 with him off).  He actually made a much bigger difference offensively (105 on vs. 98.9 off)

In a not too distant future we may look back at JaVale McGee's 2010/11 season not as the period in which JaVale McGee took his first steps towards stardom, but a period in which a compromise or detente was reached between coach and player. Of all the Wizards written about during last season, the most ink (or in this case pixels) was spilled over the Wizards immensely talented but also immensely frustrating center. The embodiment of that frustration was coach Flip Saunders, who appeared to reserve his most pointed barbs and head scratching for the play of his pivot man.

For every amazing McGee block, there was talk about the McGee putting on a "dribbling exhibition" or "believing that he is a PG." Every thunderous dunk went hand in hand an aside about how McGee "has one or two highlight plays a game. The problem is that there are two hundred fifty plays a game." This continued on for the better part of the year.

But by the end of the season, there appeared to be a gradual shift in the coaching staff's treatment of McGee. The criticism of McGee grew more muted and McGee was was given a larger role in the offense and a longer leash after making a mistake. How the Wizards and McGee got to that point is a remarkable evolution to study further.

Up into the All-Star break, the compromise that was to emerge between McGee and the coaching staff was not a possibility than many would have predicted. McGee spent the period prior to the All-Star break alternatively demonstrating both his freakish athleticism and his penchant for poor decision making. A typical McGee mistake (bringing the ball up the court while refusing to hand off to John Wall, attempting to dunk from the free throw line, taking an ill-advised jumper with 22 seconds left on the clock) would lead to McGee being immediately pulled from the game and assistant coach Randy Wittman having a near cardiac arrest. McGee would often get yanked for defensive purposes in favor of Hilton Armstrong and Kevin Seraphin, a decision that reveals as much about the Wizards' depth as it does about McGee's ability to play decent positional defense.

Further, McGee would generate his own meme during this period with Flip Sauders trotting out the now semi-famous "style vs. substance" stance that would come to define McGee's play during the year. The first half of the season culminated with McGee getting robbed in the NBA Dunk competition, with future ROY of Blake Griffin taking the nod by dunking over an economy car while McGee set a Guiness World Record.

Following the break, McGee's play hit a nadir with a string of poor performances where both the player's decision-making and confidence were called into question by many, including the coaching staff. Things reached a tipping point during a game against Chicago in which McGee appeared to break out of his funk by recording his first career triple-double but was roundly criticized by national media and bloggers for being a selfish player who tried to "get his" during a a blowout loss.

The funny thing about the triple-double is that it once again turned the season around for McGee. The coaching staff began to trust McGee more and started to run the first offensive set of the game to get McGee a touch. McGee's play also noticeably became more disciplined, as he began to adapt to Saunders' idiom of "playing within oneself" and not always trying to hit the home run. Most noticeably, Saunders criticism of McGee appeared to soften, as he went to greater efforts to praise the accomplishment of McGee and began allowing for mistakes on the court.

The question we are left with is the one that seems to plague all Wizards fans following the growth of a player: will that player build upon that growth next season? I think its unlikely the coaching staff will ever be able to truly rid McGee of some of his "stylish" tendencies. However, by giving McGee a larger and more defined role within the system, the team can hopefully rein in the quirks of McGee's game with the promise of a greater reward. We are past the point with McGee that the team can punish him for every little miscue. Instead it is time to take the training wheels off and truly give him the keys to the car.

Jake's limerick (as found below) does a lovely job is summing up the the JaVale McGee Experience as witnessed through the lens of BF. Like Andray Blatche, he is a player that doesn't often inspire a tepid reaction, as he can generously be said to have the most vociferous proponents/detractors on the board. And yet, unlike Blatche, McGee took a step forward this year and made a statement as to his future value to the franchise. Whether you are measuring McGee with numbers or your eyeballs, 2010/11 has to be considered a success.

A LIMERICK ABOUT JAVALE MCGEE'S SEASON, BY JAKE WHITACRE

How do you measure one's growth?
Through numbers? Through eyeballs? Or both?
No matter the way
Let's hope and let's pray
To growing he swears a true oath

Favorite JaVale McGee quote, as noted by Mike Prada

"He showed a video -- like a National Geographic video of a herd of buffalo together.  I guess there was a message that we need to stay together."   -McGee on Saunders showing the Battle At Kruger tape.

Discussion question: Will JaVale McGee ever be a starting center that logs 30+ mpg?

Rate McGee's season on a scale of 1-10, given the expectations you feel he should have been given heading into the season. 

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