It isn’t just a fan exercise to watch a team and visualize how a certain player could fit in with that group.
As a player with his season over and on his way to unrestricted free agency, that’s what center JaVale McGee was doing during Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
The eventual signing by the Suns was at the game in Phoenix and was able to see where he could potentially play a role.
“I was definitely looking at, ‘OK, they’ve got Deandre (Ayton) on [Giannis Antetokounmpo]’ but Deandre is a young guy, so he hasn’t had that experience, especially against a player like Giannis seven games in a row,” he told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Wednesday. “Obviously, he’s a former MVP, a lot of people can’t stop Giannis. But I definitely felt like that backup center position could have been a lot stronger, to where at least when Deandre got in foul trouble, there was another big body to contest the rim and protect it.”
While the Suns got productive minutes out of Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky as reserve bigs, neither player possesses a skill set to be a presence on the interior like McGee can be. And in those Finals McGee watched, Phoenix was without Saric, who will miss the majority of the upcoming season as well after tearing his ACL.
The 13-year vet McGee will give Phoenix a shot-blocker off the bench it didn’t have last year.
“On the momentum [scale], I’ve always felt like a dunk is just the most momentum you can have in a game. If somebody dunks the ball, that just turns up the crowd, that turns up the offensive team to even go harder,” he said of his approach on protecting the rim. “They’re like, ‘OK, that’s what time we on.’ But at the same time, if someone going up for a strong dunk full force and then someone comes and blocks it, that defensive force can change the whole game also.
“So my concept has always been I don’t care who’s going to dunk or what’s happening, I’m going to try and contest that dunk.”
McGee joins the Suns with three NBA titles to his name, so he knows what to look for when it comes to contenders. The 33-year-old likes the amount of potential still left for Phoenix because of how far it got with a young roster.
“Just from, look at last year, they made it to the Finals. So obviously they can do it,” he said. “I feel like that piece of confidence in all these young guys is gonna grow and grow and grow because most of these guys are extremely young. So you’re like, ‘Oh wow, they’re making it to the Finals at this young age, they’re getting it at this age.’”