The NBA is a funny business.
George Karl is paid to win games. He is going to play the guys that he thinks give the team its best chance to come away with a win.
In Mark Kiszla's latest piece, "JaVale McGee is a 7-foot example of all that's wrong with Nuggets" he brings up some questions.
To get the full perspective please click the above link and read the entire piece. Some items Kiz mentions:
I would give McGee a one-way bus ticket to Altoona, Pa. Trade his unfulfilled potential in a heartbeat. Don't let the door hit you on the way out of town, big fella.
So, Kiz is ready to scrap the 24 year-old (turns 25 in Jan.) McGee after 61 games of his Nuggets career. Matt Moore of the CBS Eye on Basketball podcast mentioned on his show today that the Nuggets might have more patience than Kiz and are looking down the road - perhaps two seasons from now - for McGee's fresh contract to start paying off. McGee would be 27 years old then and be a lot more comfortable in his body and with his game.
The theory goes that you are who you are in the NBA by the time you are 27 years-old. But recently people have been preaching that you might need to wait a bit longer on big men and perhaps 28 years old is a better measuring stick for them.
The below quote might have more to do with unlocking why Kiz is ready to see McGee go ...
Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri gave McGee a four-year, $44 million contract, in effect doubling down on a bet that money can instill passion in a tall guy who doesn't particularly love basketball (e.g. Nene).
To me, Kiz is saying here that McGee's first love is not basketball. Does it need to be for McGee to be an effective NBA player? Some would say yes and others would say no. There is another well-known line of thinking in hoops circles that goes - big guys often play the game because somebody forced them into it ... because of their size.
I don't know what Kiz knows that allows him to come to this conclusion that McGee isn't particularly in love with basketball. But to me it seems that Kiz doesn't think the Nuggets should have a guy on the roster who isn't passionate about the game - at least not one making that big $44 million sum. It's no secret that a big contract can hinder the payroll when you are paying a guy to be a high-level player and he's not playing up to the ability.
The problem I have with that. I see passion and desire in McGee. He has tried out and worked with Team USA and also went and spent time with Hakeem Olajuwon as well. But is McGee coming to practice early and working on his game? Staying late like Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov often do? Going to the practice gym after a bad shooting night like Ty Lawson did after the Heat home loss on Nov. 15th? Getting out on the floor early before games like Mozgov and Kosta Koufos do? Seriously, show up to a 7:00 p.m. game when the gates open at 5:30 p.m. and you'll see Moz and K2 out there before every game.
Only McGee can take his game to levels his talent can provide him.
Here's the conundrum for Karl.
McGee doesn't deserve to play.
But the lone way Denver can discover if there's a winner that can be coaxed from deep within McGee?
Live with the mistakes. Play McGee more.
I don't think anyone can make a serious argument that McGee doesn't deserve to play at all. In fact, Karl has not allowed McGee to start this season and he has limited him to just 18.9 minutes per game. That's a minutes decrease over his career average of 21 minutes per game and well below his last two seasons with the Wizards of 27 minutes per game.
But Kiz is right in saying the only way to find out if McGee will get it is to keep playing him. But again, should Karl be trying to develop guys at the cost of winning games? The rotation shows that Karl is trying to win games over developing guys. If that were not the case then Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Anthony Randolph, and McGee would all be seeing a lot more playing time.
With other options on the team - notably Koufos - the Nuggets can afford to bring McGee along slowly and continue to see if their contract based off potential will pay off. I admit that I'm a sucker for guys with potential, but McGee has enough of it to allow the team to be patient with him. But at the same time, it's all up to McGee on how far he wants to take his basketball journey.
Karl can afford some patience for now, but it's on McGee to live up to his own potential.
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