The Los Angeles Lakers found a diamond in the rough last season in JaVale McGee. The journeyman center was coming off back to back rings with the Warriors but hadn’t played extended minutes across an entire season since the 2011-2012 season. Dealing with asthma over the course of his career, McGee had previously gotten an unfortunate label that he wasn’t capable of playing big minutes on a nightly basis.
Not only did McGee shrug those off as he piled up the third highest minutes per game total of his career but did so while putting up near career-best numbers in every major statistical category. Despite McGee’s strong and consistent play down low, the Lakers missed the playoffs yet again as the majority of the team succumbed to one of the worst cases of the injury bug in recent memory.
JaVale McGee Explains Only Reason Lakers Missed NBA Playoffs
McGee made an appearance on the Lakers’ home channel, Spectrum Sportsnet for a brief interview to check in the with Laker free agent. When asked about the role injuries played in missing the playoffs, McGee didn’t hesitate and immediately says he felt that injuries were the ONLY reason the Lakers missed the playoffs.
“Truthfully I feel like that was the only reason.” McGee said, “When everybody was healthy, well the crazy part is I don’t think we had everybody on the court at the same time.”
McGee would go on to double down on his take that injuries took the Lakers out of contention.
“We never had a full squad and of just rolling and getting our camaraderie right and getting our chemistry right the whole season.” McGee added, “Injuries really played a giant part in that.”
McGee isn’t entirely wrong. Outside of just injuries, Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were suspended to start the season and the team rarely had a stretch where the entire unit was healthy and able to go. Despite all that, before the worst of the injuries kicked in, they sat in fourth place in a loaded Western Conference and were rapidly rising up the standings.
JaVale McGee’s Offseason: Is a Return to the Lakers Possible?
If the Lakers go out and sign a max free agent, the chances of bringing JaVale McGee back go almost out the window. McGee is coming off the best year of his career and should likely expect to be playing for a bit more than the minimum as he’s facing one of his last chances to land a decent payday before his career winds down. Unless McGee feels connected to the Lakers and is willing to play for an MLE, chances are another team with ample cap space will swoop in and pick up the two-time NBA champion.
If the Lakers strike out on a max free agent, they should have plenty of cap room to bring McGee back at a reasonable price. Even after his expected pay raise, he should still be one of the more cost-effective big men available on the market and an appealing target for a Lakers team that benefited greatly from his athletic rim-running skill set.