DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13: Nene Hilario #31 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the defense of Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat at the Pepsi Center on January 13, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
As part of our day-long quest to bombard you with even more analysis of the trade that sent Nene to the Washington Wizards, JaVale McGee to the Denver Nuggets and Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers, here's a Q&A I conducted with Nate Timmons of Denver Stiffs, SB Nation's Nuggets blog.
1. Put yourself in the shoes of the Nuggets, and maybe not in the shoes of ... yourself, I guess. Why would the Nuggets move their starting center given their position in the WesternConference and the fact that it's been only three months since he was given a five-year contract?
To stay as myself for just one moment ... Nene was finally seeing more time at power forward this seasonwith Timofey Mozgov starting at center, before the emergence of Kenneth Faried. With Nene and Mozgov both missing time with injuries, Faried was able to work his way into the starting lineup and likely will staythere for a long time. Nene was just recently moved back to center - where he has stated for years he's not too fond of playing.
Now to channel my best Masai Ujiri ...
We invested $67 million in Nene for the next five seasons. He's 29 years old right now and turns 30 in September. We really were expecting big things from Nene right away and banking on him to be a big part of the team over the next two to three years. But ... he's missed 16 games this season with various nagging injuries to his heel and calf, and the team hasn't missed much with him out of the lineup.
When Nene has played we've seen his offensive game stay about the same and his defensive game has been hit-or-miss. Never a strong rebounder (or shot blocker), Nene was actually rebounding the ball a little better this season, but Faried has proved to be the team's best rebounder. Faried has even shown more on the offensive end that we thought possible and he's only a rookie. Faried's price-tag is only a fraction of Nene's, yet he's just as productive and he does the thing the team really needs by being a strong rebounder and he's developing great chemistry with Ty Lawson.
We're not quite sure if we can compete for the title as currently constructed and our highest paid player and one of our older players is Nene. With Mozgov, Kosta Koufos and Faried we might be ok in the front-court and with the emergence of Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson on the offensive side of the ball, now might be the right time to rid ourselves of a hefty contract. Oh, and we can free up money to re-sign Wilson Chandler, sign Lawson to an extension and perhaps bring in an asset via trade or free agency too.
... That's the best rational I can do for Ujiri's decision, it's a decision that I like. I believe the Nuggets think they are just as good without Nene as they are with him, so why not move him for a young prospect who could really help the team and grow with the team ... enter JaVale McGee.
2. Nene's game is pretty unique for a center. How would you imagine that game fitting in with John Wall?
When Nene entered the league, at just 19 years old, he was an athletic freak and he still is. When Neneis really on top of his game, you'll see him out running the floor and it should be fun to see him play withsuch an athletic point guard in Wall. But, Nene hasn't been running as much this season and needs to get over his nagging heel and calf injuries - he was just starting to get his legs back just before this deal went down.
Nene also plays well on the block. He can play with his back to the basket, worked with Tim Duncan over the summer on some additional post moves, and can finish with either hand. It's where Nene finishes that can leave you scratching your head. The movie "Swingers" has a famous line, "You're so money and you don't know it." This is perfect for Nene - he truly is a big bear with claws, fangs, and big teeth, but he doesn't always know it. He can throw down some monster jams in traffic, but some games he just tries to lay everything in and will miss a lot of easy looks that will leave you wondering why he won't use hisdominant size to just plow over guys and dunk the ball.
Nene is also a gifted passer, but when he passes up a shot for an assist you may find yourself frustrated with his unselfishness. He never seems to take more than 12 shots a game ... sort of his magic number.
3. Is his declining production this year due to nagging injuries? Age? Comfort from his newdeal? What happened to the Nene from 2009-2011?
That's a tough one. I really wanted Denver to bring Nene back and I was excited when Ujiri announcedhis re-signing. I watched the press conference and was happy to see a joyful Nene. And then when the season started, like fools gold, I saw the same frustrations on the basketball court that I've had with Nene for years. I lied to myself thinking Nene could totally remake his game and become a go-to guy for the Nuggets.
Nene is a great third option, but has never seemed comfortable having the offense run through him. As I stated above, he's too unselfish and has never figured out how to best utilize his size and athletic abilities. I really hoped that he wasn't just content with his contract and his place in the NBA, but Nene is what he is as a player at this point in his career.
The Brazilian won a lot of games for the Nuggets and I've probably watched Nene too closely to fully appreciate his overall game. Nene is a fine player and would be a great option for a team contending forthe title. I was a bit surprised he re-signed with Denver as he talked a lot about wanting to win and be with a winning team over caring about money this past off-season. I hope, for his sake, that he can find a happy medium in Washington and that he can help the Wizards find some success.
The media in Denver, his teammates, and coaches have never said a bad thing about Nene the man. He's a great person and a quality community guy. He married a Colorado woman, had a baby somewhat recently, and often has a smile on his face. I was at the Nuggets practice yesterday and saw Neneinteracting with the kids brought in by the Colorado Special Olympics for a basketball clinic, he was really taking in the experience and was the last player to leave the floor as he signed autographs and tookpictures with the kids.
Nene hasn't known another NBA home and I hope the fans in Washington treat him well. Nuggets fans will miss him a lot, I know I will.
4. Are you ready for the JaVale McGee experience? Because it'll be fun.
I have no idea what to expect from McGee. I'm excited and terrified all at the same time. I'm very intrigued to hear what you Mr. Prada and the rest of the Wizards fans on Bullets Forever have to tell me about McGee.