Although Blake Griffin leaping over a car, while being fed the ball by former teammate Baron Davis and then slamming the rock through the hole, was a spectacular feat; I was more impressed by center JaVale McGee’s performance, in the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. My jaw literally dropped when the former Washington Wizards big man slammed two balls simultaneously into baskets placed side-by-side, an act that requires dexterity and athleticism, that mere mortals do not possess.
McGee, was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the middle of this past season, in a deal that sent Nene to the Wizards. The 24-year-old seven-foot center is a restricted Free Agent this summer, although he has not received the media attention that Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, or Indiana Pacers man in the middle Roy Hibbert did, before they re-signed with their teams.
Friday, the “Denver Post” reported that the Nuggets have offered the center a five-year contract extension said to be for $50 million, which is certainly a respectable package. The paper’s sources however, are saying that McGee and the people representing him in the negotiations, are not satisfied with the offer and want the big man to get a deal more in line with what Lopez (four years for $60 million) and Hibbert (four years for $58 million) signed for.
Now many NBA observers would scoff at the notion that McGee should be making the money that the other two centers are earning, until they start to break down the numbers. After getting limited minutes during his first two seasons in the Association, former Wizards head coach Flip Saunders put him in the starting lineup for 75 games in his third campaign and he finished the year with 10.1 points, 8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
In the 40 games he was on the court for Washington this past season, McGee scored 11.9 points, grabbed 8.8 rebounds and blocked 2.5 shots per game. His numbers did go down after the trade, as one would expect them to during a readjustment period, however he still finished the season with 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. The center’s numbers for his 40 games with the Wizards, are comparable to what Hibbert did for the year this past season, as the Pacers big man scored 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per contest, which got Hibbert on his first NBA All-Star team and landed him his current deal.
Lopez, is a different type of center than Hibbert and McGee as he concentrates far more on his scoring and far less on the boards than the other pair do. His role however could be radically changed with the new makeup of the starting rotation, as he will now have D-Will, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace all looking to score. He may be asked to alter his game and concentrate more on cleaning the glass than putting the ball in the bucket.
It is surprising that Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey, has shown no sign of him going after McGee, especially after losing Hibbert to the Pacers who were going to match any offer sheet given to their big man. The last two seasons have shown that McGee is progressing in the Association and could turn into a highly sought after commodity in this era of the NBA; a talented center.
So, to answer the question that I posed at the top, does McGee deserve to be paid along the lines of Hibbert and Lopez? In my opinion he absolutely does. However is he worth the money that the other two centers will make on their new deals? Only the market can determine the answer to that question.