Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers made a handful of seemingly whacky signings in free agency with the additions of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, otherwise known as “The Meme Team.”
For the most part, the eclectic group of personalities lived up to their name with the exception of JaVale McGee, who showed that he was much more than a two-time “Shaqtin’ A Fool” MVP.
Through 75 games with the Lakers, the 31-year-old center averaged 12 points per game on 62.4 percent shooting from the field in 22.3 minutes per game (the third-highest minutes total of his career). He also averaged 7.5 rebounds and two blocks per game.
McGee was one of two players to finish the season having averaged at least two blocks per game while averaging at least 10 points on above 60 percent shooting from the field. Rudy Gobert was the other.
If all that didn’t make it clear, this was a pretty good year for McGee, and during his exit interview last week, he said it might have been one of the best of his 10-year carer.
“I feel like it was one of my best seasons I’ve had in my career. It was a pretty good season. It would’ve been better if I wouldn’t have gotten pneumonia,” McGee said. “I really showed that I can be a starter in this league, and I can play extended minutes, and be a leader on the floor and off the floor. A lot of positives.”
More than that, though, McGee believes he shook the stigma that has been attached to his name for the last several years with the way he handled his business on and off the court.
“I was just really trying to focus this year on changing the perception of me as someone who doesn’t care about basketball, as someone who’s had that monkey on my back where people don’t think I care about basketball,” McGee said.
“I really was focusing this year in order to portray it and show people, rather than being the recluse that I’m used to being with people. For example with Zu, that was really my guy when we started this season. I was really trying to instill confidence in him,” McGee continued. “Now he’s doing great (with the Clippers). Just trying to really stay positive and be the veteran leader that I’ve been shown to be.”
McGee’s combination of on-court production and locker room leadership should earn him more than a few suitors when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer. Unless the Lakers finder a better value option at center than McGee this summer, though, they should strongly consider bringing him back.