Editor’s Note: Last week, we debuted our Silver Screen and Roll staff rankings of the most interesting Lakers heading into next season (The 15 guaranteed contracts plus the two guys on two-way contracts). Today we have No. 12, JaVale McGee, and will be counting down to the Laker we think is most interesting with a new piece each day until we hit No. 1.
People in Los Angeles are elated to have bagged the biggest fish in free agency in LeBron James, but there is still plenty of intrigue to be spread around the rest of the Lakers roster, and one of the most exciting names on it is JaVale McGee.
That excitement doesn’t solely come from basketball. During his NBA career, McGee has secured his reputation as one of the NBA’s biggest goofballs with mishaps that put him on “Shaqtin a Fool,” and while he might have been unfairly targeted at times, he’s also definitely had his fair share of bloopers.
On the court, however, McGee’s skill set brings intrigue as well. He’s always been an uber-athletic big who can be a productive player for a short amount of time, and during his career, McGee has averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game.
Coming into this season, McGee is still that fun-loving guy that fans have fallen in love with, but now brings championship credentials after winning back-to-back titles with the Golden State Warriors. If McGee truly wants to endear himself to Laker fans, he’ll have to do more of the same, to prove he’s more than just a funny locker room interview and that he can produce on the court.
While the Lakers faithful shouldn’t expect him to score 15 points a game, they will need the Flint, Michigan native to do some dirty work.
McGee will be asked to set hard screens and roll to the basket with purpose. This will force opposing defenses to close in on him, which will lead to more open threes for his teammates — Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball and Lance Stephenson will be mighty grateful to McGee for this.
McGee’s screen and roll game will also provide the Laker playmakers — LeBron, Rondo and Ball in particular — an easy target at the rim. McGee’s height and athleticism allow him to soar over opposing players and finish with authority.
McGee will also need to be someone who can be a good rim protector, while still being able to switch on to as many defenders as possible.
The seven-footer showed he could put up a fight against LeBron when he switched onto him during the Finals last year, and he also showed he knows how to leverage his length against smaller players.
And outside of basketball, another thing that makes McGee interesting is his life off of the court. While too often when talking about people’s life away from basketball we worry we’ll hear bad things, there are no such concerns with McGee.
For one, McGee has shown an affinity for charity. After a quick glance at his Instagram profile, you can see the trip he took to Africa, where he played in the NBA’s Africa game, which helps support the Nelson Mandela Foundation. McGee also founded a charity called JUGLIFE, which provides clean water to underdeveloped communities.
Still, many people see McGee as the same knucklehead that Shaquille O’Neal highlighted on Shaqtin a Fool. But since spending his last two years in Golden State, McGee has proven to be a championship-caliber role player along with being the team class clown.
Over at Golden State of Mind, Justin Mak wrote about McGee’s impact, and gave credit the seven-footer credit for injecting life into a Warriors team that was limping along like a zombie on their way back to the NBA Finals.
The contagious energy that McGee provides will be vital in Los Angeles this year, because since LeBron James led teams usually struggle to start off the season, so the purple and gold will need someone to boost their energy and provide those dunks that are worth more than two points because you can feel the momentum swing with it.
McGee should be a perfect fit with the culture Luke Walton and the front office are trying to create in Los Angeles.
They want their players to work hard and get below a certain body fat percentage, but more importantly, they want their players to take ownership of the team and have fun while they play basketball, which is exactly what McGee does best.
Lakers fans will likely get frustrated with McGee at times, but as long as the team doesn’t ask McGee to be too much more than a limited role player, the positives of his addition should outweigh the negatives.
Plus, good or bad, McGee has proven he’s always worth watching, even on a team with much bigger names.
The countdown so far:
12. JaVale McGee
13. Isaac Bonga
14. Lance Stephenson
15. Luol Deng
16. Alex Caruso
17. Travis Wear