Despite an 0-2 start to the season, it is a positive that a number of Los Angeles Lakers players have met or exceeded expectations so far. Among those who have played well include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Josh Hart and Lance Stephenson.
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In his comeback from a long injury-driven layoff, Lonzo Ball had an impressive game against the Houston Rockets. But the Lakers first Player of the Week to begin the 2018-19 NBA season is JaVale McGee.
He is one of three centers the Lakers have on their roster. The problem is, Moritz Wagner has been injured since Summer League, missed the entire preseason, and only recently began scrimmaging. In addition, he is a rookie and whether he is ready to contribute at all this season is unknown.
The other center is Ivica Zubac, who has all but disappeared from the organization’s plans. The promising young player fans saw two years ago is out of the rotation entirely and apparently will see little or no playing time this season.
Under the circumstances, the Lakers needed McGee to come through and in a big way. At 30, he spent the last two seasons with the Golden State Warriors where he averaged a mere 10 minutes a game.
Throughout his career, which has included stints with several different teams, McGee has played effectively in small bursts but has struggled to stay healthy. For his career, he averages 7.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 0.3 assists per game.
McGee has doubled those stats so far with the Lakers, averaging 14.5 points on 70 percent shooting from the floor, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 5 blocks a contest. That’s all come while playing nearly 20 minutes a game.
McGee could be seen working very hard over the summer to get in great shape so he could run the floor. It appears to have paid off, for at the moment he is playing the best basketball of his career.
There were times against Rockets that he was keeping the Lakers in the game, with five blocks and some key baskets. McGee appears to be the team’s best rim protector in years.
When he is not blocking shots, he is altering then. He even made a three-point shot in the season opener and it looks like that is part of his arsenal if he chooses to use it.
McGee has always been a talented player who for some reason has never quite put it all together. From the moment he signed with the Lakers this summer, by his actions and words, it was as though he sensed that this season was going to present him with a major opportunity.
He was clearly signed to be the starter, and on a team featuring LeBron James, that is a good gig. Thankfully for the Lakers, McGee is ready to have his best NBA season.
Hopefully he will stay healthy and continue to play at a high level. There are no options behind him at the moment, and desperate for a viable backup, the team re-signed Jonathan Williams to a two-way contract.