The Los Angeles Lakers have numerous players who can opt-out of their contracts this offseason and while most of them are expected to take advantage of that option, at least one guy has decided to stick around. Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that center JaVale McGee has decided to exercise his player option. That means he’ll be staying in Los Angeles for another season.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 19, 2020
Despite seeing his role decreased in the playoffs, McGee started all 68 games that he played in last season. He was also one of the most energetic players on the bench even though he wasn’t playing a lot of minutes. McGee has been in the NBA a long time and provided the Lakers a lot of stability last season. He likely would’ve found other suitors had he hit the free agency market and possibly could’ve gotten more money. He must be really happy with the team how it is.
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Will McGee Be the Starter This Season?
With McGee deciding to stick around, the Lakers now have their starting center back. However, it remains to be seen if they still view him as a starter. As previously mentioned, his role was decreased significantly in the playoffs. He went from averaging 16.6 minutes per game in the regular season to 9.6 minutes per game in the playoffs. He also only played in 14 of 21 playoff games.
It wasn’t necessarily his fault that he didn’t play much. When the Lakers played the Houston Rockets, they pretty much didn’t utilize a true center for the entire series. Dwight Howard also barely saw the court against Houston. In the series against the Denver Nuggets, Howard was better suited to lock down Nikola Jokic so he ended up getting the edge at center. His impressive performance in the Western Conference Finals gave him the chance to start during the NBA Finals. With Howard’s future with the team in question, McGee could end up starting for the Lakers when the regular season begins.
If Not McGee, Then Who Will Be the Starting Center?
Howard was excellent off the bench for the Lakers last season. That said, he’s a free agent right now and is looking to get paid. It’s unclear exactly how much Los Angeles might value him. Should they decide to re-sign him, it’s also unclear if the plan is for him to be the starter. While McGee is durable, dependable and never causes any drama, he doesn’t have the sheer talent that Howard does.
Howard knows this and could say that he only wants to return to the Lakers if he can be promised to start most of the games. He’s still a guy that can get close to a double-double every night if he got enough minutes.
There’s also a chance the Lakers want to look elsewhere to find a starting center. Serge Ibaka is a free agent and he’s probably better than both Howard and McGee right now. Los Angeles is rumored to be interested. If he’s signed, he’s very likely going to be the starter at center. The position battle for who might the Lakers’ starter at center will be interesting to watch heading into the season.