JaVale McGee

Should Warriors explore possible JaVale McGee reunion?

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It won’t take long for the Warriors to see some familiar faces on the floor at the start of the 2023-24 NBA season. 

The Warriors open the season playing one of their all-time greats, Kevin Durant, in a game that will be his first time in front of fans at Chase Center. Their next game is a short bus ride to Sacramento where the Warriors will play Durant’s predecessor, Harrison Barnes, as Golden State grows its rivalry with the Kings. The Warriors also could soon have a chance at adding a familiar face to a roster that currently sits at 13 guaranteed spots. 

Former Warriors center JaVale McGee is expected to have his contract waived and stretched by the Dallas Mavericks before the league’s Aug. 31 deadline, Marc Stein reported Tuesday, citing league sources. 

Spotrac’s Keith Smith explained how the Mavs will stretch McGee’s contract over the next five years, and what exactly the terminology means. 

With McGee expected to soon be a free agent, should the Warriors explore a possible reunion in bringing back the veteran center? Let’s look at Golden State’s current roster and McGee’s possible fit. 

McGee would automatically add the missing size that the outside is begging for once again. Dario Šarić's addition in free agency finally gives the Warriors a player taller than 6-foot-9 … by one inch. McGee is a true 7-footer, and though skill now beats pure size, it’s no coincidence the last five NBA MVPs have been big men – ending an 11-year streak of the award going to a point guard, shooting guard or small forward. And while Joel Embiid stopped Nikola Jokic from a three-peat of the award, the Western Conference is littered with stars who tower over the Warriors. 

Jokic of course leads that group, before and after leading the Denver Nuggets to their first championship. Also in the conference is Anthony Davis (6-foot-10), Domantas Sabonis (6-foot-11), Jaren Jackson Jr. (6-foot-11), Deandre Ayton (6-foot-11), Karl-Anthony Towns (6-foot-11) and Rudy Gobert (7-foot-1), Chet Holmgren (7-foot), Walker Kessler (7-foot-1), Victor Wembanyama (7-foot-4) and others. So yes, like usual, the Warriors will be looking up at their competition in hopes of standing atop the mountain and looking down at the rest of the league. 

Kevon Looney will want to play all 82 regular-season games for the third straight year. That’s an admirable goal for the indispensable center, but he needs a break. As does Draymond Green, who will maintain some center duties, yet the position should still be very much secondary the majority of the time. If the Warriors were to consider bringing McGee back for the third time, he would be deep in the pecking order and possibly even behind rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis. 

McGee’s two seasons in a Warriors jersey were in his age-29 and age-30 seasons. He’s now 35 and turns 36 on Jan. 19. The Mavs signed McGee to a three-year, $17.2 million contract last offseason to solidify their frontcourt after Looney averaged 10.6 points and 10.6 rebounds against Dallas in the conference finals. The contract was a disaster, forcing the Mavs to already want to move on from one season where McGee played 42 games and averaged 8.5 minutes, 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

The Mavs were a minus-7.4 per 100 possessions with McGee on the floor.

Between returners and offseason additions, the Warriors already have 11 players who likely aren’t going to lose their spot on the depth chart to anybody who takes the 14th roster spot. That actually works in McGee’s favor. The 14th roster spot, assuming the Warriors keep the 15th spot open, will be highly dependent on fitting the culture. McGee certainly does, and has plenty in his corner on the Warriors’ roster and coaching staff. 

A handful of players will come through Chase Center for workouts ahead of training camp. Of those players, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Kent Bazemore, two former Warriors, are part of that list. Both were seen at Warriors playoff games last season, and so was McGee. All fit a culture that is under the spotlight right now. 

Ideally, McGee could help Jackson-Davis understand Kerr’s system quickly. He could be a pick-and-roll lob threat for Chris Paul and unlock Green’s short lobs again. But even in a group of guys who have played for Kerr, Toscano-Anderson probably holds the most value of the three as someone who is more versatile and five years younger than McGee. 

In the case McGee is soon on the open market, should he be on the Warriors’ radar? Sure. The answer isn’t a profound yes, and it would be wrong to completely ignore the possibility. McGee wouldn’t be a square peg trying to fit a round hole. He would bring fit to the roster on paper, and more importantly, would instantly do so in the locker room. 

The three-time champion just isn’t the player or athlete he once was as a Warriors fan-favorite. The past might simply have to be that. Nevertheless, the door won’t be slammed shut in San Francisco once Dallas inevitably opens it.

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