JaVale McGee, Lakers
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the biggest surprise so far for the Los Angeles Lakers has been the play of center JaVale McGee. While it seemed like McGee would be a great fit next to all of the Lakers’ playmakers, nobody could’ve predicted the impact he has had so far.

He has been nothing short of outstanding on both ends of the floor, averaging 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. More important, however, has been his defensive impact as he is averaging a league-leading 3.6 blocks per game and even chipping in one steal as well.

While it’s still very early in the year to think about awards, that hasn’t stopped LeBron James from putting McGee right in the thick of the early Defensive Player of the Year race, via Spectrum SportsNet:

“He shouldn’t be in the conversation, he is the conversation right now. Just look at his numbers points per possession, points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor and when he’s not on the floor, leading the league in shot blocks. He’s doing a little bit of everything. He’s huge for us.”

LeBron isn’t wrong when talking about McGee’s impact as the Lakers are a better rebounding and shot blocking team with him on the floor, while the opponent’s offensive rating skyrockets when he sits.

Whether that will be enough to keep him in that race as the season goes on remains to be seen, especially if the Lakers’ team defense continues to struggle.

Players such as Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, and Joel Embiid give McGee some stiff competition when it comes to that race. Nonetheless, regardless of whether he keeps up this pace and stays remains in the conversation, his impact on this team has been truly outstanding.

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