Dallas Mavericks: JaVale McGee Signing Is Big


The Dallas Mavericks announced this week the signing of free-agent center JaVale McGee, a signing that might be considered huge before all is said and done.

This flirtation had gone on for several weeks in the aftermath of Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan’s complete flake-out on the Mavericks early last month. Since that time, no other position has garnered more attention than the all-important center position in Big D.

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Hasn’t that always been the case?

Yes, Dallas won it’s only NBA championship five seasons ago while enjoying the services of Tyson Chandler, the same guy owner Mark Cuban allowed to walk away in free agency – again – following last season’s first-round playoff exit. Unlike that championship season in 2010-11, the Mavericks felt pretty good about replacing Chandler with a true upgrade in Jordan.

Yeah, well feeling pretty good about something is way different than actually getting a deal done.

So, enter McGee, who joins a rather crowded roster spot at the five.

The Dallas Morning News offers an interactive poll that asks its readers to vote on the Mavs starting lineup for the start of the 2015-16 campaign, still a few months away. When getting down to the center spot, as of this writing, McGee had a considerable edge over presumed starter Zaza Pachulia, a trade acquisition from the Milwaukee Bucks immediately following the Jordan disaster.

I think many of those readers are on to something.

McGee is a long, tall and powerful center who seems to display even more athleticism and ball-handling ability than Chandler, who as of now is the best center the Mavs have ever had. The 27 year-old out of University of Nevada stands 7’0” and weighs in at 270 pounds.

By comparison, Chandler is the same height but weighs some 30 pounds less.

If there’s one thing McGee can do, it’s dunk the basketball – about the same thing Dallas was expecting out of Jordan, who can’t buy a shot of any kind that wasn’t initially taken by somebody else – in other words, a pass from somebody else in a Clippers outfit.

McGee hits free throws better than Jordan, but not quite as good as Chandler.

Where McGee will probably be most important is blocked shots, his career average sitting at a rather healthy 1.8 per game. This is where we can draw more of a comparison between him and Jordan. McGee can jump to the rafters for ill-advised shots taken by opponents close  to the rim.

So, if McGee is so great, why didn’t anybody else want him, right?

Well, there’s a little thing called “health.”

McGee has an injury history that’s limited him to just – wait for this – 28 games over the last three seasons. He played just six games last year with the Philadelphia 76ers following his trade from the Denver Nuggets last February.

Two years prior, he played in just five games with the Nuggets due to a stress fracture suffered in his left leg.

That’s not a whole lot of action in recent seasons and this is definitely something to watch moving ahead.

Then again, you have to have the feeling that Dallas had as good of an indication as possible that McGee can play significant minutes this coming season, apparently in a backup role.

As the included video shows, McGee is a force under the rim when healthy. Despite the addition of center Samuel Dalembert earlier this month, I have to think that he’s not seriously considered the primary backup to Pachulia, who should become the best shooting center in Mavericks history, which isn’t saying a whole lot, but still.

While it’s true that McGee has a detailed history of poor decision making and perhaps needless “show-boating,” but the physical ability is undeniable.

I might have a more optimistic view of having McGee on the team than some others, and in time I could be proven wrong.

However, I also remember a time when adding Chandler wasn’t believed to be a major difference for a Dallas franchise that, historically speaking, just couldn’t buy a center capable of dominating in any way in the postseason.

Time will tell if McGee can be a difference-maker similar to what Chandler was. Dallas has quietly built a quality roster that, while possibly not being a contender in the extraordinarily tough Western Conference this season, might very well become one next season.

McGee needs to re-establish, or simply establish, himself as a quality, reliable big man in the NBA. This could be among the bigger challenges for head coach Rick Carlisle next season. If this championship coach can manage this task, it just might go further in softening the blow felt by Jordan than anybody ever expected.

That, of course, would be a pretty big deal.

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