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Casting an Anchor: JaVale McGee

According to reports, the Clippers are interested in the free agent center.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

JaVale McGee is a goofball.  A doofus.  He shaqts a fool all the time.  He's also 7' tall with a 7'6" wingspan, a 9'6.5" standing reach, and a 32.5" vertical.  And the Clippers are reportedly interested in his services as a free agent center.  Before struggling with injuries and only playing in 28 total games the last two seasons, he was top 10 in the NBA in FG%, blocks, and blocks per game.

It's not secret that DeAndre Jordan's career took off when Doc Rivers came to L.A., and, as a similar player, it's possible that JaVale's could take off under Rivers' guidance as well.  Up through the end of the 2012-2013 season (Jordan's last season before Rivers and McGee's last season before the injuries), here's what the stats looked like:

Player A: 22.1 minutes per game, P36 averages: 10.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.4 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 4.1 fouls

Player B: 20.5 minutes per game, P36 averages: 15.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 3.3 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 4.3 fouls

Of course, Jordan would take off afterwards, but the only numbers that really jumped were his minutes, and rebounding.  DeAndre's per-minute scoring was actually at it's highest in Vinny Del Negro's last season with the Clippers, as was his shot-blocking.  The only-per minute stat that improved was rebounding, and it did so right alongside a steep drop in the rebounding numbers of his running mate, Blake Griffin.  Of course, there was more to DJ's development than that--he became much more disciplined defensively, he led the communication on that end of the floor, and he learned his niche offensively.  But it seems like a lot of the improvement was in confidence, and that confidence came from two things: Doc talking him up to the media, and Blake easing up on rebounding and letting DeAndre grab more of them.

Is it that outrageous to think that JaVale McGee can be molded in a similar fashion to DeAndre?  They're from the same draft class, JaVale going 18th and Jordan 35th, DeAndre is exactly 6 months and 2 days younger, and both signed similar deals following their rookie contract: just over $40 million over the course of 4 years.  JaVale's rookie contract was one year longer as a first-round pick, but Philadelphia waived him after acquiring him in a salary dump from Denver.  Now, JaVale is a free agent, following two injury-riddled seasons where a fractured tibia and repeated complications and strains to the same leg sidelined him severely (our resident medical expert, Shap, will have something for us on the titanium rod that now resides in McGee's left shin).

If the tibia isn't healed up, then JaVale isn't worth the minimum salary.  Here is an outstanding article from our SBNation sister site, Denver Stiffs, talking in-depth about JaVale's injury with quote from Joe Alexander, another player who had the same stress fracture.  It's certainly sobering, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that the leg is healed--if it's not, there's no conversation to have.

JaVale McGee is a little more offensively versatile than Jordan is, but he certainly isn't all-around skilled offensively.  McGee has taken about 40% of his career shots from outside of 3 feet, compared to 18% for Jordan.  However, he only shoots 36.4% from 3-10 feet, and that percentage gets worse as he goes further out.  Overall, McGee's field goal percentage is 54% for his career, compared to Jordan's 66% (including 71% last season and three in a row leading the league).  With refining, his shot selection could push his percentages up to Jordan's level--JaVale has made nearly 68% percent of his shots within 3 feet in his career.

JaVale has the size, the length, the athleticism.  He has the timing to block shots, he averages a double-double per 36, and he finishes at a very high percentage around the basket.  The focus, intensity, and defensive discipline is yet to come, but if Doc could inspire it in Jordan two years ago, it's not far-fetched at all to believe McGee can inspire a similar production (in a smaller role).

Oh, and by the way, he's shot 58% from the free throw line in his career, which is hardly great, but should be good enough to deter the hacking.