May 8, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (right) is interviewed by TNT broadcaster Craig Sager after game five of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
I'm happy that JaVale McGee is getting into the limelight for having a huge performance in the Denver Nuggets' Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. I'm going to be happy for him when moments like that cause him to earn more money as a free agent this summer.
I also do want to caution Wizards fans to not go too crazy over it. Remember: nobody knows better than us that McGee is capable of dominating games like this. His issue was always consistency, attention to detail and a willingness to respond to coaching. The jury is still out on all three, though it seems like progress has been made on coachability. While McGee has been the difference in the Nuggets' two wins in this series, he has also been a relative non-factor in the three losses. The stage is biggest and the extremes are wider than usual, but at its core, McGee hasn't really proven too much that we didn't already know.
To me, there are two takeaways from last night's game.The first: tune out the noise. There's going to be a lot of people bashing the Wizards over the next couple of days. Those who watched Inside the NBA last night saw Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal get their licks in. The points they made are what I'd like to call "storage analysis." Basically, the points they made get kept in their brains because they're easy, only to come out when the time is right. It doesn't matter that events happen to disprove the points, because they only need to see the light of day when it's convenient. That doesn't mean what was said is completely devoid of legitimacy, but it's more complicated than the way they'll put it.
The second: well, yeah, the Wizards do need to rethink how they develop young players. Michael Lee of the Washington Post writes that McGee's breakout game shows the need for more veterans.
McGee’s play should serve as a reminder of what the Wizards need to do to truly expedite their efforts to rebuild. His performance was further proof that if John Wall is ever going to develop into the player that he is meant to become, he is going to need to be placed in an environment of accountability and surrounded by more eager-to-win veterans with important roles.
This is true, but I also think it goes deeper. Veterans or not, you're going to need to be good at making players better, young or old, if you want to win in this league. Whether the Wizards want to admit it or not, the March trade for Nene was an admission that their player development process was broken. Where it broke is up for debate. Maybe the issue was considering such a raw prospect (and really, prospects) as legitimate draft picks. Maybe the issue was, upon drafting them, they didn't do enough work to bring out their positive traits. (The story by Jay Glassie a couple months back suggesting that they made McGee pay for a big man coach on his own dime seems to support this). Maybe it was team dynamics that placed McGee in a role he was not suited to fill. Maybe it's a combination of all of these things. Whatever it is, the Wizards are only dooming themselves to more failure if they think bringing in veterans can fix their broken player development infrastructure.
But the thing is, we knew everything in that previous paragraph already. One breakout game in the first round of the playoffs shouldn't change anything.