Free Agent Stock Watch: JaVale McGee

During his time with the Wizards, JaVale McGee was a walking highlight reel. Of course, for every memorable dunk or blocked shot, there was even more memorable miscue, whether it was running back on defense when his team had the ball, or blatantly goaltending a shot into the fifth row. Michael Lee of the Washington Post said it best earlier this season when he wrote that McGee has a penchant for mixing "the spectacular with the perplexing."

The deadline deal that sent McGee to Denver in a package for Nene gave the seven-footer a chance for a fresh start, and he took advantage, averaging a career-best 18.0 points per 36 minutes and .612 FG% in his 20 games with the Nuggets. His play in the postseason has been inconsistent, but he's shown flashes of brilliance, swatting away six shots in Game Two and grabbing 15 boards to go with 16 points in Game Three.

Although McGee hasn't necessarily shed the "perplexing" label he earned with the Wizards, he appears to have benefited from a change of scenery and a chance to be a contributor on a veteran squad, rather than a leader on a young lottery team. His play in Denver should earn him more interest in free agency than he would have received had he finished the season mixing highlights with lowlights in Washington.

The Nuggets figure to make a play to retain McGee this year, having parted with a quality big man in Nene to acquire him. But there's no guarantee the restricted free agent will return to Denver, if another team swoops in with an aggressive offer sheet. Chris Broussard of reported in March that McGee will be seeking a contract worth $14MM annually this summer, and while that amount may be wildly optimistic, McGee is the type of high-upside player that could inspire a team desperate for size to make an overly aggressive offer.

Last month, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld reported that the Nuggets would likely match any offer of $7MM or less annually, and I could even see them going a little higher than that. But the Nuggets are very unlikely to match anything approaching the $13MM-per-year price tag they just shed by moving Nene.

Will JaVale get an offer anywhere near the amount he's reportedly seeking? Probably not. Even considering the premium price placed on NBA bigs, it's hard to imagine which team would offer McGee an annual eight-digit salary. The Cavaliers, Rockets, Bucks, and Trail Blazers are a few clubs who will be in the market for a center and should have plenty of cap space, but I wouldn't be surprised if McGee ultimately re-signed in Denver for a multiyear deal worth about $8-9MM annually.

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