January 3, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) sits on the floor after being fouled during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Pepsi Center. The Timberwolves won 101-97. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

When will the Nuggets McGee live up to his potential?

When you hear a player is 7-foot tall, weighing in at 241 pounds with a 7-foot, 6-inch wingspan, you must think he’s an instant star. Well he’s not — at least not yet.

The Washington Wizards saw one thing when they selected Javale McGee No. 18 overall in the 2008 draft.

Potential.

In turn, the Denver Nuggets saw what the Wizards did when they traded their newly extended power forward Nene to the Wizards for McGee. With a fast paced offense, McGee seemed like he would fit the mold better than Nene would.

Against the Portland Trailblazers last night, you saw flashes of why the Nuggets made the trade and consequently signed McGee to a four-year, $44 million deal in the offseason. McGee used his wingspan to catch a poor pass by Wilson Chandler on an alley-oop. At the end of the game, McGee once again took a bad pass by Ty Lawson and turned it into a no-look alley-oop. That is what McGee can do.

January 15, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) reacts on the bench during the first half against the Portland Trailblazers at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 115-111 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, that’s all he can do — for now.

McGee had just those two baskets last night and while they were highlight reel material, he’s often on the highlights for the wrong reason. If you go to YouTube, type in “Javale McGee.” The top two results will sum up what many fans around the league think of the big man. “Javale McGee worst plays” and “Javale McGee top 8 dumb plays” are at the top of the list.

In a game against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season, McGee used his athletic ability to drive baseline and attempt another highlight dunk where he cupped the ball for a reverse dunk. The only issue was that McGee didn’t just miss the dunk, but he jammed the ball between the rim and the backboard.

Remember how in baseball they would refer to any antic by Manny Ramirez as “Manny being Manny?” I think it’s safe to say this was just another example of “Javale being Javale.”

McGee missed his five other shot attempts last night — three of those were layups by my count — and continues to show the frustration in his game. McGee is averaging his best field goal percentage in the past three years so far with .553 percent from the field, but don’t let the numbers mislead you.  McGee himself said he’s benefiting from not having to take as many shots with the Nuggets having so many options.

While that statement is true, the Nuggets want him to take those shots. The issue is that McGee is playing only 20 minutes per game. $11 million per year for a guy that plays 2o minutes per game while Kosta Koufos starts over him?

Potential.

That’s what it is.

He has the type of potential that makes Hall of Famers rave about him.

No seriously.

Houston Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon was impressed with the work ethic that McGee has.

“No question, I see him as another star. That guy should dominate the league. He has tremendous talent. I give him all these moves and he can finish and he’s already skilled. So now just show him how to use that skill to (get) to the next level,” said Olajuwon said to FOX 26 Sports in a previous interview.

It’s the potential that made his Team USA teammates rave about him during the preliminaries in 2009. Despite not making the final cut, his teammates liked what they saw.

His coach, George Karl, said he loves what McGee brings. But until McGee brings it in a consistent fashion, he won’t be the 30 minute a night player.

Karl said that he doesn’t have a plan for allotted minutes going into a game and that he puts the players who give his team the best shot to win out there.

So at his height, weight, athletic ability and defensive ability, why can’t McGee translate his work ethic onto the court? We saw McGee terrorize the Lakers in the playoffs on his way to cashing into his big paycheck. Keeping an athlete like McGee off the open market made sense for the Nuggets. That is, if he gives the results.

The truth is, McGee is a lousy one-on-one defender and it showed again last night with LaMarcus Aldridge salivating when he had McGee on the low block. McGee also gives Dwight Howard competition for the worst free throw shooting big man in the league at just .567 percent from the charity stripe.

Instead of the $11 million man starting at center, it’s the man making $3 million. Good investment? Time will tell. For now, it’s the same old same for the 24-year-old McGee.

Potential.

It’s a deal that both the Nuggets and their fans hope turns into a wise investment and not a mistake.

Tags: Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets George Karl Hakeem Olajuwon JaVale McGee Nba Nene Washington Wizards

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