JaVale McGee, Small Minute Star

JaVale McGee is averaging fewer than 10 minutes per game for the second year in a row for the Golden State Warriors. However, JaVale's defensive presence and elite athleticism make him an incredibly effective player in small bursts.

JaVale McGee came to the Golden State Warriors at a troubled point in his career. After failing to live up to expectations with the Denver Nuggets, McGee was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and played just six games before being waived. McGee signed a minimum deal with the Dallas Mavericks for the 2015-16 season and played just 370 minutes in 34 appearances. He was only 28 years old after that season, but his career seemed to be on the downswing.

Luckily for JaVale, he managed to find the perfect landing spot for the 2016-17 season. McGee actually averaged fewer minutes per game with the Warriors (just 9.6 per game in his first year); however, he played in 77 games--the first he d played in more than half of his team's games since 2012-13. This season, McGee's minutes per game average is down once again but he has already played in 50 games for the Warriors this season. McGee's rim-protecting and rim-running ways would be helpful on any team, but the Warriors can cover for McGee's weaknesses better than anyone else in the NBA. After a season where it looked as if McGee's time in the NBA might be winding down, he instead found a perfect role and home on a championship team.

Short but Sweet

JaVale McGee broke his season high for minutes played recently when he played nearly 20 minutes in his most recent start against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 9th. McGee has been averaging more time on the court since the All-Star break when he found his way into the starting lineup, but his playing time has remained relatively minimal in spite of his starting role. McGee is not leading the Warriors in Net Rating this year (as he did last season), but his athleticism allows him to make a major impact on the game when given free reign to do what he does best at both ends of the court.

JaVale McGee ranks in the 98th percentile of shooting efficiency among big men per Cleaning the Glass. He is shooting 64.3% from the floor this year after converting 65.2% of his looks last season. Opponents are rightfully terrified of the rest of the offensive brilliance surrounding McGee, and thus they are forced to leave him wide-open lanes to the rim:

On the other side of the ball, the Warriors' team defensive success allows McGee to find himself in another role where he can be successful without being forced out of his comfort zone. Playing alongside Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant allows McGee to avoid the hassles of switching on defense and instead allows JaVale to focus purely on protecting the rim. McGee ranked in the 98th percentile among big men in block percentage last year per Cleaning the Glass, and he is up to the 99th percentile this season. Opponents shoot 6.6% worse than their average within six feet of the rim when defended by McGee.

JaVale McGee never lived up to the All-Star level potential that his athleticism might have indicated. However, he has already earned one ring and appears to have found a team that will allow him to play to his strengths. Even if McGee never averages more than 10 minutes per game, he and the Warriors have found a way to make him effective in small doses.

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on      or  

Free Agency Tracker

Keep track of 2018 NBA free agency signings with our live free agency tracker.

The NBA Collection

NBA themed T-Shirts that are actually worth wearing.


Podcasts from the Hashtag Basketball Podcast Network, covering NBA and fantasy basketball.

Fantasy Basketball

Expert fantasy basketball analysis, podcasts, injury updates, and 19 free fantasy basketball tools to help you dominate your league this season.

NBA Coverage

Full coverage of all 30 NBA teams.