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Can JaVale McGee Resurrect His Career in Dallas

JaVale McGee is a highlight reel player. Some highlights are good, some are bad, and some are completely mind boggling. The 2011 NBA Slam Dunk contest runner-up, McGee seemed to be on his way to an entertaining career, to say the least. However, for the past two seasons, the seven-footer has watched the action from the sidelines due to injuries. With his career hanging in the balance, McGee is joining a depleted Mavericks squad in an attempt to resurrect his NBA future. Can he become relevant again? The Dallas Mavericks sure hope so.

Dallas aimed high this offseason. Targeting DeAndre Jordan to be their center of the future, Cuban and company felt they had the perfect player to replicate and exceed the defensive success of Tyson Chandler, all while getting younger. After that plan disintegrated, the Mavericks were left with a gaping hole in the middle.

Ranking 23rd in the league, Dallas was clearly not a strong rebounding team in 2014-15. They sat in the bottom third of the NBA in points allowed, blocks and opponents field goal percentage as well. Not the stoutest group. Making their deficiencies worse for the upcoming season, in their pursuit of Jordan, they let their top rebounder (11.5 RPG) and a top 10 rim protector, Chandler, walk out the door. To say they were desperate at the five spot is an understatement. Enter JaVale McGee.

Taken 18th overall in the 2008 draft, ahead of Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and Jordan, McGee stepped onto a Wizards squad with much promise in his defensive abilities. With his 7’6″ wingspan, outstanding athleticism, and natural shot blocking, McGee had the potential to be one of the league’s premier shot-blockers.

Despite only playing 15.6 minutes per game his first two years in the league, McGee averaged 1.3 blocks per game. The early career success earned McGee the starting center spot on the Wizards by his third year in the league. When given a chance, he started to live up to his potential. From 2010-12, McGee averaged 14.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per 36 minutes. He was top seven in field goal percentage and second in blocks per game both seasons.

Proving his elite shot-blocking status, he led the NBA in block percentage with 6.7 percent in 2010-11. He even recorded a controversial triple-double with an outstanding 12 blocks against the Bulls in 2011.

Even after he was traded to Denver and assumed a reserve role with the Nuggets, McGee managed to maintain success. He posted a career-best 112 offensive rating and an impressive plus 10 net rating in 2012-13. He also finished third in field-goal percentage at .575 and ranked eighth in blocks with 2.0 per game. While the Mavericks are hoping he can replicate that success in 2015-16, McGee is facing stiff competition on Dallas.

Besides McGee, the Mavs also brought in Samuel Dalembert and ZaZa Pachulia to fill in at the five. Between the two, Pachulia and Dalembert can pick up some of the slack left behind by Chandler’s departure. Pachulia posted a respectable 16.5 percent rebound percentage and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes last season in Milwaukee.

With a career average of 1.7 blocks per game, Dalembert has proven to be a more than adequate defensive presence in his career. A little underrated in that aspect, Dalembert actually ranks in the top 10 of all-time shot blockers with a 5.57 block percentage, per Basketball-Reference.com.

They’re nice pieces but Pachulia and Dalembert do not fit in with Dallas’ hope for a youth movement. They are 31 and 34 respectively. That is where Dallas is hoping McGee can fit in if he can stay healthy.

After staying relatively healthy his first five seasons, McGee has been plagued by injuries the last two years. From 2008-13, the center averaged over 70 games per year, but since the start of the 2013 season, McGee has played in only 28 games and only 12 minutes a game when on the court.

For the last two seasons, McGee has been dealing with a tibia stress fracture in his left leg. Originally hurt in 2013, the injury cost McGee all but five games in 2013-14. Having surgery was supposed to correct the problem, but last season he experienced more pain in the area and managed only 23 games between Denver and Philadelphia.

Even after not playing a game in nearly seven months, McGee will not be ready for Mavericks training camp or the preseason as he still recovering from his leg injury. If McGee can not get healthy, he may get buried on the depth chart or even not make the team.

Just like when Dallas traded for a 27-year-old Tyson Chandler back in 2010, they are hoping to resurrect a once promising career. Chandler was coming off a disappointing two-year run where he averaged 7.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. He only managed to play in 96 games during that two-year span with New Orleans and Charlotte.

The Mavericks training staff helped revitalize Chandler as he helped pave the way to Dallas’ first NBA championship. The organization is hoping the team doctors can have the same effect on McGee and turn the clock back a few years to when he was shining brightest.

So which McGee will Dallas be getting? The freakishly athletic shot blocker and dunker? Or the mistake-prone, oft-injured flash in the pan? If McGee can resemble even a shadow of his former self, he can be the defensive stopper in the middle for which Dallas is looking and continue to expand his highlight reel.

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