When the Denver Nuggets traded long-time center for youthful bigman JaVale McGee in March, they had the luck of the Irish on their side.
Trading away Nene—a near All-Star talent—for an unproven talent in McGee was a gamble, and Nuggets' Masai Ujiri seems to have come away with a pot of gold.
In an age where bigmen are a breed of players on the edge of extinction in the NBA, McGee stands tall as a true center.
The 7' 252-pound man is massive, but his greatest attributes are his ludicrously long arms that give him an advantage over anyone on the court.
With those arms—that give him the wingspan of a 747—McGee reaches up and over opposing players to snatch loose balls and secure the rebound for his team.
He also utilizes his length to frustrate shooters and make them change shot trajectories, or simply swat their shot into the crowd. His 132 blocks this season were third-best in the NBA, and he ranked second in blocks per game at 2.16.
We haven't seen interior defense in Denver like this since the days of Marcus Camby, and McGee is even more reminiscent of shot-blocker extraordinaire, Dikembe Mutombo, with his “I'll block any shot, any time” attitude.
McGee's done even better than average in the playoffs, blocking 3.2 per game while playing against arguably the best center in the game in Andrew Bynum.
McGee is a must-have for the Nuggets merely because he matches up so well with the beastly Bynum, who has torched Denver in years past, along with many other true bigs.
But beyond being a tough-minded defender that can soar high and block shots, he's pretty decent on the offensive end as well.
McGee has much more of a post game than was advertised, spinning left or right to lay in a finger roll or throw up a sky hook. He also understands how to backdoor cut on other centers for alley-oops, which he's done repeatedly against the Lakers this series. He can even dribble in for dunks, as he did twice Tuesday night for emphatic throw-downs that changed the momentum of the game in Denver's favor.
And he runs the court incredibly swiftly for a center, an important aspect to the Nuggs' game.
Despite this being only his first playoff series—and against certainly formidable foes in Bynum and Pau Gasol—McGee's averaging a near double-double of 10.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in only 26 minutes per game.
That's the most alluring thing about the kid, he's only 24 years old and in his fourth season as a professional, with a sky-high potential.
Could McGee become a star? Possibly.
An All-Star, undoubtedly, if he can harness his raw physicality and play at a consistently high level, which is within his reach like a floating rebound.
McGee should be the man in The Can for years to come.
Even if it means paying up $10 million per year, because real-deal bigmen are a rare breed in today's NBA.