He suffered a season-ending left leg stress fracture in 2014 and has been plagued by a series of injuries that have kept him mostly on the sideline ever since. McGee has also had more than his share of #facepalm moments over the course of his career. But at his peak, he was exactly the type of NBA-caliber center the Mavericks need.
Can Rick Carlisle and the Dallas training staff get him back on track?
What is expected of McGee this season?
McGee is one of many questions marks facing this year's Mavs. Earlier this week he participated in a few games of 3-on-3, and while McGee said afterward that he wasn't in pain, you can see in the clips that he's not quite in fighting shape.
Before his injury, McGee very effectively deployed a limited skill set focused on dunking and shot-blocking, but he hasn't played very much or very well since, so it will be difficult to know what to expect until we know more about how his recovery is progressing.
He won't play in the season opener, and the Mavericks have not set a timetable for his return.
Best case scenario
In an ideal world, McGee returns to pre-injury form and starts alongside Dirk as the athletic complement the aging big man so desperately needs. McGee at his best was a better center than Zaza Pachulia, and if he can return to his previous level of play, he could help the Mavericks slide into the playoffs.
Worst case scenario
There are two categories of worst possible scenario for McGee.
The first involves his inability to return to health and contribute to the team.
The second involves McGee regaining his health, but becoming more Pierre than ever:
Can Dallas save McGee from himself?
Conventional wisdom says that while JaVale McGee might have shown glimmers of potential early on, he squandered it on self-alley-oops and boneheaded mistakes, that he's an immature player who can't cut it on an NBA team.
Hot take alert: the conventional wisdom is wrong.
McGee can be a frustrating player to watch, but ultimately all that matters is how effective he is on the basketball court. It's hard to argue with his myriad Shaqtin' a Fool appearances, but it's even harder to argue with his numbers.
At his peak, McGee averaged 57 percent from two and more than five blocks per 48 minutes. And while his foul and turnover numbers weren't great, they also weren't egregious (he turned the ball over a little less than the average center but his fouls outpaced league average his first year in Denver).
He won't be a candidate for defensive player of the year, but his 2011 through 2013 defensive win shares are comparable to Tyson Chandler in recent seasons. And his overall performance during this period was very good, with PERs ranging from 17.0 to 20.7 and a peak WS48 of .163.
It would be wonderful to see McGee both recover from his injuries and dig down deep to find a bit more on-court maturity, but if the latter never happens, he still has the potential to be a better player than Dallas had any right to hope for after DeAndre Jordan walked. The fact that he's on a partially guaranteed minimum contract means that this signing is almost all upside.
Dirk Nowitzki deserved better than what this season will almost certainly be, but despite himself, a healthy JaVale McGee may be exactly what the Mavericks need to surpass expectations.
Is JaVale prepared to embrace the Clippers as the enemy?
Even if McGee isn't capable of summoning his previous levels of basketball talent, he should at least bring an appropriate level of animosity toward the Clippers. Blake Griffin stole the show with his flashy but ultimately kind of lame Kia-sponsored dunk, but JaVale McGee is the rightful winner of the 2011 NBA dunk contest: