March 22, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center Nene (42) leaps to pass the ball to Wizards power forward Trevor Booker (35) as Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) defends in the second half at Verizon Center. The Pacers won 85-83. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
The storm of the trade deadline has passed and the dust has begun to settle. There's plenty of arguing going on as the fan community moves towards a general consensus on the trade and there's really only one question worth asking: what is the impact of the JaVale McGee/Nene Hilario trade on the Wizards rebuild?
On Bullets Forever, we've discussed our ideal scenarios time and again. We're able to accept the notion that 'no battle plan survives contact with the enemy' in our heads yet react to missteps, perceived and actual, like Marge groaning at Homer's shenanigans on The Simpsons. There is no perfect model to follow...or everyone would be following it. Institutional tanking isn't particularly novel, so aside from that, practically every team's rebuilding effort is effectively a case study. Hit the jump and we'll take a quick look at how the trade is poised to play out over the next few months, what that means for the rebuild and how it fits with the Ten Point Plan.
JaVale McGee and Nick Young are talented young players with NBA skillsets and were retarding the progress of this team. That will no doubt raise a few hackles but is it any coincidence that we've gone from getting blown out by the Warriors to playing 4th quarter games against playoff teams? Of course, the Wizards beat the Nuggets after the Josh Howard trade back in 2010 and Chauncey Billups was later heard to remark he didn't even know who was on the team. Small sample size, post-trade confusion conceded.
But moving forward, does Nene set us up for playoff hell? Noooope. This is still the roster we're all familiar with. Anyone who needs reminding can watch the last Celtics game on DVR, as I did, despite Sean's warning. There's a long way to go yet...so what is Nene's value to the rebuild?
It's been mentioned in the comments, though the two aren't a one-to-one match by any means, that Nene is in the Nick Collison role. Nene greases the offense more while Nick is something of an off ball defensive virtuoso, but I'm also concerned with the psychological effect on the other four players, in addition to the obvious court value he brings.
On the college-level, you might see a player asked to do everything to cover for teammates with inferior skillsets and then watch the debate among draftniks as they wonder whether or not he can transition into a focused role. In the current rebuild, Nene not only takes away a massive distraction in the depressingly regular question mark JVM was, he facilitates, too. He lets the other four players on the floor focus on what they're supposed to be doing without having to worry if our starting Center is where he's supposed to be, boxing out or looking for them cutting off the ball, much less finding them.
My father is fond of saying a smart, effective veteran is like another coach on the floor and the value of having such a player quarterbacking the defense is tough to overstate. The gardening analogy also comes back to mind; seed too many young plants too close together and they'll choke each other out. The Ten Point Plan opts for volume over precision when it comes to young players and pruning was both necessary and inevitable. Nene is the definition of a veteran with a complementary skill set. A high character guy who never would have signed in DC for young players who didn't come together to form the core Ted envisioned must have sounded like a win/win, save one detail.
Yet for all the worry over his massive contract, Nene's pay holds steady at $13 million per after making $18 million this season. The salary cap edges up as the years go by; it's already at $58 million and may push to $60 million or so in 2012/13. The specifics aren't important. As Nene's contract wears on, he will be occupying a decreasing percentage of cap space and that contract won't feel quite so onerous. Jermaine O'Neal was making what? Around $23 million in the last year of his deal? I'd rather pay $52 million over four years to a bonafide top 10 center than buy a $40 million lottery ticket and hope my numbers hit.
Granted, losing Nick Young for nothing gets a thumbs down from Caesar every time. However, I think we're all willing to concede NY was going to leave when free agency hit and I'd rather see Jordan Crawford (yes, that Jordan Crawford) get the minutes (with attendant earful from the coaching staff). Nick is a great piece, but this team is determined, for better or worse, to find out if JC can learn to utilize his superior tools with the temperament of an NBA mindset. And in any case, correct me if I'm wrong, I believe Nick's contract was needed to grease the deadline deal, as well.
- Nick and JaVale are poised to demand significant deals in the upcoming free agency period.
- They did not come together as part of a contending core built around John Wall.
- Not being in cap jail afforded the Wizards the opportunity to absorb Nene's contract, which is not as bad as it first appears.
- Nene is exactly the kind of veteran the Ten Point Plan calls for, aside from the length of his deal. Of course, the Wiz inquired about Carmelo Anthony back when the Nuggets were looking to deal him because a certain level of talent demands a little less rigidity when executing the rebuild. Same case here.
- The remanants of the Old Franchise have been swept away. Nick Young and JaVale McGee are gone. Andray Blatche's credibility is completely destroyed. Rashard Lewis' injuries have negated any impact his voice might have had. Everyone always knew John was The Man, but now there aren't even any conceivable challenges to that authority. Nene is now the clear number two and no one is about to undercut him. No more players out to get theirs. One team, on the same page.
Of course, we always hoped when the Wizards brought aboard a player of Nene's caliber that there would be a clear #2 already on the team. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy and the Wizards front office has done their best to roll with the punches. It remains to be seen whether Ted will reward the current regime or not, but the Nene trade was the right move.