JaVale McGee's Equally Mesmorizing Moments of Brilliance and Incompetence

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 7, 2012

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15:  JaVale McGee #34 of the Denver Nuggets heads down court against the Miami Heat at the Pepsi Center on November 15, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Heat defeated the Nuggets 98-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

He gets chase-down blocks from in front of the play. Referees are awarded an assist when he makes a free throw. His fouls are never flagrant, they're appreciated. He's the halftime entertainment during the first quarter.

Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee is the most interesting man in the NBA.

Depending on when you tune in to a Nuggets game, McGee is either the best player in the NBA or its most fortunate to be collecting a paycheck. If you watch long enough, he's probably both.

The athleticism in his 7'0", 237-pound frame affords him the chance to do things other NBA bigs can't. But he follows those glimpses of brilliance doing things other bigs wouldn't.

He's maintained his potential (enough for the Nuggets to part ways with a cornerstone big, Nene, for him) despite four-plus seasons of the most inconsistent play in the league. 

But it's hard to write him off whenever he makes plays like this one in Denver's 92-89 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.


With his size and his lift, he's impossible to stop going to the basket. Blake Griffin may be the most hyped dunker in the league, but McGee's keeping poster-makers in business. Throw in his quickness and handles (relative to his position) and he has the makings of an All-Star, if not a legend.

But there's a reason he's never averaged more than 28 minutes per game in any of his NBA seasons. Whether it's a lack of focus, an overconfidence in his ability or simply a poorly interpreted concept of the sport, McGee too often forces his way off the court with the same ferocity he uses to finish his dunks.

Some big men are just able to grab a rebound and head up court with it. Charles Barkley, Lamar Odom, Anthony Davis. These guys corral boards and push a controlled up-tempo break (or did, in Barkley's case). 

McGee wants to be in that category. Badly.

He's got the rebounding part down; it's the rest of the play that he's struggled with. And during that same game with the Pacers, he showed why his struggles aren't like anyone else's in the NBA.


There are players like McGee flooding blacktop pick-up games around the country. Guys blessed with size and athleticism, but with an unyielding desire to do more than just hang around by the basket.

If McGee worked on developing his post game like he's clearly (or maybe not so clearly, judging by that video) worked on developing his handles, he could be a bargain for Denver. Heck, he could even be their best player.

But that's just not the way he operates. He has the finishing, he has the shot-blocking, he has the athleticism, but he seems to want more.

No offense to Kosta Koufos, but he has no business being in the starting lineup over McGee. If those two played head-to-head 10 teams, McGee would win 20 of them.

But coach George Karl's hands are tied. He can't consistently live with the bad McGee, no matter how amazing the good one is.

It's a train wreck that could potentially derail this Nuggets season. But, as part our human nature, it's one that we'll never be able to look away from.