I've been wracking my brain to come up with something original to say about the three centers on the Denver Nuggets roster. Each brings their own unique set of skills, each has their own flaws. All of which, with the exception of Jusuf Nurkic, have been discussed ad-nauseum by pundits, fans, non-fans, and I'm sure even the local wildlife. It truly is well trod territory.
What new to discuss then?
Well, lets start with the simple statement we won't know much about the Nuggets big man first round draft pick this season unless something out of the ordinary happens. The center spot on the Nuggets will be fully occupied by both Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee. So NBA life will be seen largely from the bench for the Bosnian Bear. He may be getting in during garbage time, but ... his time is in the future.
Nurkic's best attributes are his immense physical stature and his surprisingly nimble offensive game, as detailed by players in attendance at Nuggets media day. Here are some Nurkic highlights
I will ONLY compliment Nurkic, mostly because I don't want to have to face this guy if he feels his boy has been slighted in any way ... cough cough. Annnnnnnyway!
So what of the other two? Lets start with the enigma that is JaVale McGee. I wrote extensively about the need for McGee to display more seriousness in his basketball life. This applies to both basketball and his approach in dealing with the public aspects of his life. Monday, on Media Day, our own Nate Timmons managed to get some quotes out of the enigmatic center .
"I missed the game: I missed dunking, the fans, shooting, blocking shots, I missed it all."
"You're definitely separated from things. You don't have the conversation of games like, "Did you see that dunk in practice?" or "Wow, he crossed you over." because you weren't out there. When they were playing in the gym, I was in the weight room working out. You get separated a little bit and it's definitely not a good thing to be injured."
"Jusuf is a big body and a real strong player. Timo is an agile big man who can spread the floor. I'm athletic and fast, so we're all different. Any night, if we need somebody to take a foul, if we need somebody to guard a heavier guy, we got everything."
"I think Shaw is a positive person. He's a [former] player, so he knows how to coach players. He knows what different players need."
"Melvin Hunt worked in Houston when Hakeem [Olajuwon] was playing, so it's definitely a situation where our coaches know what they're talking about, especially with big men."
"I'm looking forward to winning, that's it. I'm looking forward to playing, first of all, but winning, that's it. Winning."
I'm hard on JaVale. Mainly because as much as I want to see the best in him, I want equally to see him give his best to us. The best we have seen in JaVale is when he sticks to playing defense (protecting the rim) and not try to re-invent the wheel on offense. Seeing this more consistently is a sign of maturity, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in action this season. Here's JaVale Game 5 vs the Lakers in 2012 ... the series that got him the contract.
Here are JaVale McGee's overall stats, and they will show improvement in consistency going forward ... particularly the 2012-13 season. Does this point to the seriousness of which I previously alluded?
On to Mozgov. Well ... our own Nate Timmons asked him about starting, this is what he had to say:
Confident man, and had the temerity to tell THE Nate Timmons that his question on starting may be less than ideal. It's all in good fun though. Mozzy certainly has come a long way since his trade to Denver in 2011 and was incredibly decent to sit down with Nate and myself for an interview (which was about 3 minutes longer than the clip above and featured an amusing talk of how his little boy exhausts him). Mozzy blossomed last year and was finally given free reign to start. Including his amazing game against the Warriors on national television.
Mozzy started 30 games last year, and came down with career high averages in points, rebounds and minutes.
Aside from that, it's true that Mozzy does not have the leg up on starting. I don't really think it matters. As JaVale pointed out above, each center (including Nurkic) brings something completely different to the table ... and maybe this will be an incredible asset for the Nuggets this season. The center position has dramatically changed in the NBA and maybe having skill set diversity will become an asset for the team going forward?
Imagine having to deal with both McGee with his athletic craziness and Mozgov with his positional strength and offensive skill all game? This position is one reason I remain very bullish on the Nuggets this season.