The big man provided size, experience, and productivity to the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns.
Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2021-22 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season.
Check out all players covered so far here: 2022 Phoenix Suns Player Reviews, starting with Cameron Johnson.
- Position: Center
- Vitals: 7’0” tall, 270 pounds, 34 years old
- Experience: 13th NBA season, 18th pick in 2008 Draft
- Stats: 9.2 points per game, 15.8 minutes played in 74 games (17 starts), 62.9% shooting overall, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks.
Take a look at how we’ve reviewed JaVale since coming to the Suns last season.
Regular Season Recap
For the most part, we knew what we were getting with JaVale when he signed with the Suns: an NBA journeyman with championship experience who entering the back nine of his career. The last time the Suns had seen McGee was as his Denver Nuggets were swept out of the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals at the hands of Phoenix.
McGee joined the Suns and instantly provided the big-man depth that the team was lacking in the 2020-21 season. He brought with him a veteran presence that was welcomed not only by his fellow teammates, but by the fan base as well. The productivity that he provided exceeded expectations, and when he had the opportunity to start, he put together many solid performances.
No performance was bigger than when JaVale had the opportunity to start against the Boston Celtics on December 10, 2021. He poured in 21 points and snagged 15 rebounds in a 21-point drubbing of the team that would become the eventual Eastern Conference champions.
Of course there were moments in which McGee was overmatched, outplayed, and made some boneheaded plays. That is just part of the ‘JaVale McGee Experience’. He isn’t a solid perimeter defender – like many secondary centers in the NBA – but it was his energy and his tenacity that played a vital role in helping the Suns achieve a franchise record 64 wins.
It was a tale of two series for McGee in the 2022 postseason.
Against the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that possessed size on the interior, JaVale played 11 minutes-per-game, but they were highly impactful. He scored 8.3 points and had 3.7 boards in his limited play. In the per-36 world, that equates to 27.1 points and 12.1 rebounds. That’s being effective when called upon. He shot 80.8% from the field during the series.
He scored 15 points in Game 3 and followed that up with 14 points in Game 4.
When matched up against the Dallas Mavericks, however, his effectiveness was negated by the Mavs’ five-out strategy. He played in six of the seven games, averaging 11.3 minutes. His point total dropped to 5.2 per-game while his rebounding increased to 4.3. His field goal percentage, like many of his fellow teammates, fell off as well, as he scored on 58.3% of his attempts.
Of course who could forget that McGee provided us with the last true great moment of the 2021-22 season? He strips Luka Doncic, initiates the fast break, and dunked it home.
Experience and size.
He’s an NBA player who has seen a lot in his time, and while he may not always be able to be on the floor due to the matchups, the expertise he brings is valued. His energy on the bench and his ability to get the team riled up prior to each game is legendary.
The effectiveness that McGee had, combined with Bismack Biyumbo’s productivity, have fueled the flames for those opposed to bringing Deandre Ayton back on max-deal money. The center position, in this offense, is plug-and-play from their perspective.
The size that JaVale provided was something we have not seen in Phoenix from a bench center since the days of Steven Hunter. You fuse that with his experience, and some argued that the Suns had the best one-two combo relative to centers in the NBA.
When the opposition plays five-out, you best believe that JaVale McGee becomes the pigeon. We found this in the playoffs when he was hunted him whenever the opposition had the opportunity to do so. It’s just a product of the modern game.
JaVale excels in a traditional format, and throughout an 82-game regular season, his value is heightened due to this. Over the course of the season, knowing that injuries occur, having a savvy veteran such as McGee is vital to the long-term success of a franchise. The Suns benefitted from his presence.
What to work on
There isn’t much for JaVale to work on as he is what he is. You don’t need him practicing his perimeter shooting in the off-season; that isn’t where his value lies. He can’t improve his lateral quickness and that this one of those skillsets you either have or you don’t, especially as a 34 year-old center.
- Unrestricted Free Agent
JaVale signed a one-year deal entering last season worth $5M. He fulfilled his obligation to the Suns while simultaneously increasing his market value. It will be interesting to see if the Suns will bring him back, but all signs are pointing to JaVale wanting to be back.
JaVale McGee says he will consider re-signing with the Suns:
“Definitely consider it… At this point in my career, I’m definitely focused on myself and what’s best for me and my situation and my family.” pic.twitter.com/b3Y31FKtbV
— NBA Stream (@_nbastream_) May 30, 2022
Time to grade out JaVale’s 2021-22 season.
- Overall grade as an NBA player: C+
- Relative grade to preseason expectations: B+
In an effort to bring awareness to his foundation, McGee is hosting the Water for Life Charity Softball Game on June 22 at Chase Field. The event will have some of our favorite Phoenix Suns players competing like Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, James Jones, and Cam Payne.
If you are interested in attending, click here.