JaVale McGee will make a boatload of money over the next few years to fail at ridiculous attempts to dunk from the free throw line during games, throw alley-oops to himself while his team is losing and irresponsibly block shots that are clearly on their downward arc.
And that's OK.
McGee, whom the Denver Nuggets reportedly signed to a four-year, $44 million deal on Wednesday night, by no means is the surest investment in the NBA. The undisciplined 7-footer out of Nevada has supplied as many bloopers as highlights in his four years as a pro, and the Washington Wizards were antsy to ship him out last season in a trade that was the essence of addition by subtraction.
Yet paying McGee, 24, the same average salary that future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett is receiving from the Celtics is not the worst thing in the world. (The worst things in the world are, in ascending order, famine, war and the fact that Kwame Brown will make more than $6 million this year for the second straight season.)
Until McGee cuts down on his lowlights, he will be perceived as the joker who missed a layup, turned around and charged back on defense, unaware that his team had secured the offensive rebound. But at least he ran back on defense. Not even the Miami Heat did that consistently during their run to the championship, which led to Rajon Rondo's immortal "crying about fouls" crack in the Eastern Conference Finals. Misguided effort is still effort.
McGee is a knucklehead, but pretty much every 24-year-old is a knucklehead. You were a knucklehead. I was a knucklehead. As several readers often like to remind me, I still am a knucklehead, although they typically use stronger words than that.
McGee's foibles are nothing that cannot be fixed with the right guidance and a little maturity. The Nuggets have the right leadership in place to provide McGee with a structured setting in which to grow. Coach George Karl is demanding, yet few styles are as fun to play as his run-and-gun system. Veteran point guard Andre Miller will be back to help steer McGee and the rest of the Nuggets, who with an average age of 25.6 years old, made up the second-youngest roster of any playoff team last season. The infrastructure is in place for McGee to succeed.
Ask any coach and he will say he would rather have to rein in an overly enthusiastic player than have to spark a blasé player. McGee chases down blocked shots with zeal and zestfully stays alert for putback dunk opportunities. He lives for the highlight, and with time Karl and company should be able to mold that into making McGee live to win.
McGee wants to make plays, and generally players who want to make plays also want to get better. That may be worth the investment all by itself.
Photo via Flickr/KeithAllison