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The Denver Nuggets have a crucial decision to make next season. Head Coach Brian Shaw will have to decide on who to start at center next season, between JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov. Both have pros and both have cons.
During last year’s offseason, Shaw’s plan was to start McGee if he could prove to be a more consistent player on both ends of the floor. He ended up starting at center for the first five games of the season, but struggled significantly and was later diagnosed with a fractured left tibia that has sidelined him for the rest of the season. So, he hasn’t seen much play this season.
On the other hand, Mozgov has thrived under the Denver’s injury-ridden season. On Thursday, he scored 23 points and grabbed 29 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors. Over the last nine games, he has averaged 16 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game in 29.4 minutes.
So, the question is: Who should Shaw start? He could go with JaVale McGee, the athletic center who has made his name with making momentum-shifting plays, or Timofey Mozgov, who has proven to be an asset on both ends of the floor.
Through the five games McGee played in this season, he averaged seven points and 3.4 rebounds per game. But the good news is, when he is healthy he brings a special set of physical talents to the court.
JaVale McGee has an insane vertical, standing at 7’0’’ tall, using it to throw down a ridiculous dunk or coming out of nowhere to reject what looks like an easy basket for opponents. Not to mention when he grabs the ball mid-air on a shot attempt, instantly getting it to one of the guards in transition. He seemed to have his biggest year during the Nuggets’ 2012-2013 campaign when they won a record 57 games. He blocked 3.9 shots per-36 minutes and increased his win shares per-48 minutes to a career high .163.
Many people know McGee mainly for his features on Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ A Fool.” Some of his plays will cause you to laugh, but he could still be a valuable option for the Nuggets. His unique abilities and upside far outweigh his hilarious mistakes.
McGee spoke about the importance of using his post moves and mid-range shot. He said, “I definitely have post moves. I have a mid-range shot that I really never got to use my whole career in the NBA. Coach Karl didn’t want his ‘bigs’ shooting at all. [Defenses are] probably going to leave me open for the mid-range, so I definitely got to take that shot.” Before 2013-2014, McGee was only shooting 28.9 percent from 10-to-16 feet and 30.3 percent from over 16 feet in his career. On the upside, his average distance on field-goal attempts went up from last year’s 3.9 to 5.6 and he made 75 percent of his 10-16 footers in his five games this season.
Although he only played in five games, he did see an increase in his usage percentage this season. The percentage went up from 21.1 last year to 25.1 this season. Plus, after seeing Kenneth Faried make drastic improvements his defensive and offensive game, there’s no reason we can’t see the same come from JaVale McGee. His shooting form is starting to look pretty solid.
Not too many Nuggets’ players have benefited from their injury-plagued season. Mozgov is one of those players. His presence in the paint is no longer only relevant against the weak frontcourts and their bench players. He has been playing very well late in the season, including the 23 point, 29 rebound night against the Golden State Warriors, the 22 point and 6 rebound night against the Rockets and a 23 point, 10 rebound game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Timofey Mozgov has gone under some controversy with analysts. Some people thought he didn’t deserve a contract extension during the offseason. He hadn’t played more than 15.6 minutes or scored more than 5.4 points before this year. He isn’t dominant in one area consistently. He isn’t as athletic as Kenneth Faried or JaVale McGee, nor does he likely have the talent to be an All-Star.
On the upside, he does contribute in nearly every area a big man should, although those three-pointers could use some more practice. He has improved in essentially every area statistically this season. He does a good job in half-court sets, whether it’s with high-ball screens or playing inside-out. He’s also very underestimated running the floor as he attacks the rim and gets second-chance points. He has a player efficiency rating of 16.7 and is a versatile center always doing something with or without the basketball in his hands.
Looking at the big picture, this isn’t exactly about who is better or who has the greater potential. It’s about comprising the most effective starting lineup and rotation. It’s definite that Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried will be two starters for sure next season. They will also likely be joined by Randy Foye and Danilo Gallinari if he is healthy. The only position not definite is the center spot, which will be held by either JaVale McGee or Timofey Mozgov.
First off, I would notice that Faried and McGee are the most potent Nuggets on the fast break and fly above the rim frequently. With that being said, I would try my best to make sure one of them is on the floor at all times. Since Faried will be starting, I would pair him with Mozgov, that way McGee could come out when Faried is benched.
Even though McGee is a fantastic shot-blocker, Mozgov has more defensive talents overall. Faried and Mozgov would compliment each other well. Since Faried can do more things in space and Mozgov is better around the rim, Mozgov would help make up for Faried’s defensive deficiencies. The team rotation would look a lot better with Mozgov starting. They would have a solid starting five, with fantastic players to choose from off the bench.