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Where's JaVale McGee?

Ivan Carter nailed it in his blog post today on the subject of JaVale McGee's recent DNP-CDs. 

Interim coach Ed Tapscott explained his decision not to play McGee last night by saying he would've been a bad matchup against a Raptors team that has big men who play a lot on the outside (Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh).

"It's all based on matchups, flow of the game and strategy," Tapscott. "Nothing he's done wrong, he's working hard."

But that doesn't explain why McGee didn't see the floor against Dwight Howard in Orlando or against Cleveland on Sunday.

Tapscott's explanation is, as Ivan pointed out, a load of something-that-rhymes-with-fit.  It's true that McGee would have struggled mightly against a guy like Andrea Bargnani or Chris Bosh.  With McGee's length and lack of lateral quickness, you do want him close to the basket, which isn't going to happen much against Toronto.  But don't come here and tell me that the reason he isn't playing is because of some lame "matchups" excuse.  Etan Thomas can't match up with those guys either, and it's not like Jake Voskhul (who did play 16 minutes) is shooting three-pointers himself.

We've heard this silliness before, remember?

I know folks are wondering why JaVale McGee, who opened the game by swatting away two Derrick Rose shots on the first possession, only clocked 11 minutes. I was wondering the samee thing and asked Coach Ed Tapscott that very question afterward:

Tapscott: "The flow of the game and again (Bulls center Aaron) Gray is not a good matchup for him. They didn't play (Joakim) Noah. That would've been a good matchup. You know, similar style of game, speed guys. Gray is a guy who can get into your body and JaVale is better against those speed guys. Big, wide-body guys give him trouble simply because he's not real big physically and he's still learning the tricks of the trade, how to use his body and hold guys off.

To recap: according to Tapscott, Aaron Gray is a bad matchup for McGee, Cleveland's surplus of non-scoring bigs (including J.J. Hickson) are bad matchups for McGee, back-to-the-basket center Dwight Howard is a bad matchup for McGee AND face-up guys like Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani are bad matchups for McGee.  This begs the question: who exactly is a GOOD matchup for McGee?  Because from the sounds of it, Tapscott has basically said that every single type of player McGee could face is a bad matchup for him.  And that's just lovely.  You couldn't script a better way to break a 19-soon-to-be-21-year old's confidence than to say in the press that every type of matchup is a bad matchup for him.

Look, I understand that McGee's not playing like he did at the beginning of the year.  All the problems identified from the Summer League are coming back.  He's undisciplined, slow laterally, gets pushed around on the boards and fumbles a ton of passes.  But for all those seemingly obvious problems, McGee still grabs a higher percentage of rebounds than Etan Thomas, whose supposed strength is his rebounding.  JaVale's criticized for his lack of hands, yet his turnover rate is half of what Etan's is right now.  And for all of Etan's supposed grit on the defensive glass, the Wizards are grabbing a higher percentage of defensive rebounds with JaVale in than with Etan in.  In short, JaVale's way better than Etan for the role this team needs him to fill and he's only 21 years old. 

Yes, Etan is more "consistent," if you will, and yes, coaches tend to reward reliablity over inconsistency.  But when we talk about Etan's consistency, it really just means the following

  • He'll get one slam dunk on an offensive rebound, prompting us to overvalue his toughness
  • He'll fumble two passes that should be dunks and instead will be turnovers
  • He'll bring the ball down on two offensive rebounds (a cardinal sin), which will ultimately lead to turnovers    
  • He'll attempt two ugly jump hooks that won't come close to going in
  • He'll screw up pick and roll coverage, failing to hedge far enough and ushering guys down the lane
  • He'll keep swinging his elbows on rebounds, making it seem like he's bringing the toughness needed to defensive rebound.  In reality, he's just slowing down our transition game.

Without fail, these things happen with Etan.  So yes, he's consistent, but consistently bad.  Heart problems or no heart problems, this is what you'll always get with Etan.  The only difference is that he maybe grabbed a couple more rebounds and had a couple more dunks in the past.  Maybe. 

We have to face facts.  We're now 7-27 after the loss to Toronto.  McGee may make us cringe sometimes, but at least he won't be consistently bad like Etan with no room to grow.  And if he does have bad games, who cares?  We aren't making the playoffs anyway and you'll allow him to grow into the role he can fill. 

Development.  Ain't it grand?