The Golden State Warriors succeeded at every turn this offseason after running roughshod over the rest of the NBA during the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Golden State got Kevin Durant to agree to a below-market deal. They convinced Andre Iguodala, Zaza Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, and David West to return. Buying Jordan Bell with the 38th overall pick already looks like a steal. The Warriors also managed to get good value for their new free agents, inking Nick Young and Omri Casspi to below-market deals.
As August approached, the Warriors had filled 14 of their roster spots. They filled out that last spot shortly before the end of July, as they managed to get JaVale McGee to return for another year in the Bay Area. According to ESPN's Chris Haynes, the deal is for one year at the veteran minimum.
JaVale McGee may be most well-known among casual NBA fans for his repeated appearances on Shaqtin' a Fool and his arguments with the Hall of Fame former center. However, McGee truly shone with the Warriors in a role that perfectly fit his skill set. The Warriors are once again the heavy favorites to win the NBA title, and JaVale will be able to do the same job that he did so successfully last season.
Minimal Minutes Darling
JaVale McGee did not spend all that much time on the court last season. While he did play in 77 regular season games (the first time he had played more than 40 games since 2012-13) and all 16 playoff games, McGee averaged just 9.6 minutes per game during the regular season and 9.3 minutes per game in the postseason. JaVale has struggled with asthma since at least his days in Denver; while that is not the only reason that he succeeded in a smaller role, it is certainly relevant.
More importantly, JaVale makes the most of every second that he is on the floor. His elite athleticism (especially his vertical athleticism) allows him to protect the rim defensively and catch lobs on the offensive end. The gravity of the talented Warriors roster gives JaVale space to dive into the lane for easy looks and vicious lob dunks:
When Draymond Green has the ball in the post, and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are flanking him, opponents cannot afford to pay attention to McGee. Furthermore, JaVale's substantial size and stellar athleticism make him arguably the best fit with the starters among the centers on the Warriors' roster. McGee may have averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game, but his Net Rating of 18.7 was the single highest mark among Warriors players. It was better than Steph Curry's 17.2 and far above the team's score of 12.1 (which, for reference, was better than their 11.6 Net Rating from their 73-win 2015-16 season).
On the defensive end, JaVale still occasionally gets lost in a manner that reminds fans of why he was the Shaqtin a Fool MVP once upon a time. Nonetheless, he fills his role on defense--namely, contesting shots near the basket. Opponents shot 54.0% when guarded by JaVale within six feet of the basket, a full 6.5% worse than the league average mark of 60.5%.
JaVale McGee has had a troubled history of injury, a difficult time securing significant minutes, and personality clashes. However, he is beloved by his Warriors teammates and a perfect fit for what the squad needs from their deep reserve center. McGee would have been a solid signing for any team at the veteran minimum, but it is a brilliant move for both McGee and the Warriors to have him return to the Bay Area for at least one more year.