After signing LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers went on the hunt for veteran role players who could help them reach a new level of play. They quickly came to terms with JaVale McGee, who had spent his previous two seasons winning championships with the Golden State Warriors, who primarily used him off the bench in limited minutes.
The Lakers, however, decided that McGee could handle a larger role as a starter and opted to part ways with Brook Lopez, who became the best value of the offseason when he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on a one-year, $3.4 million deal. While Lopez’s departure stung, McGee exploded during the first few months of the 2018-19 NBA season and rewarded them for their faith in him.
He averaged 15.5 points and 3.3 blocks in October (easily career-highs) as he feasted on lobs and drop off passes from James. He was a terror at the rim, using his athleticism to fly in at the last minute and reject what looked to be sure baskets. His defensive principles weren’t always the best, but McGee’s pure athleticism allowed him to make up for it, and his ability to run the floor was a major plus for a team who wanted to play fast.
McGee’s torrid pace naturally slowed a bit in November but he was still a major factor at the rim, and the arrival of Tyson Chandler allowed him the luxury of playing fewer minutes. As McGee settled in, he was making a name for himself beyond the Shaqtin A Fool infamy that most fans know him for.
Unfortunately, the December injury bug brought pneumonia to McGee, knocking him out of action for seven games. It took him months to fully recover, causing him to spend the months of January and February looking like a shell of himself while the Lakers slipped farther out of the playoff race. His play gradually returned to normal but by then, it was too late.
McGee proved a lot this season but also experienced a significant downturn due to illness and now heads into free agency with an uncertain future.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Season
Protect the rim, run the floor, and finish. JaVale McGee at his finest.
The Lakers made some curious choices in the veterans they brought in to surround James — most of which didn’t work out. However, McGee played well, especially when considering his price tag on a veteran minimum deal. When McGee was healthy, he provided rim protection while also running the floor at the pace the Lakers were looking for. In the half court, he was a favorite target of James, always lurking in the dunker position and waiting for the opposing center to be forced to rotate into the paint.
Now that McGee has mostly proved himself as being more than just the 10-minutes-per-game player that one saw with the Warriors, the question is what will he get on the open market? That will ultimately be a major factor in his future with the Lakers.
McGee has spoken positively about returning but as with most of their free agents, the Lakers will prioritizing hunting for All-Star players before turning to McGee. Another team could swoop him up, but if the Lakers can keep McGee around for anywhere near the deal he was on this season, he will be an excellent bargain.