Three hundred and fifty eight days ago, the Washington Wizards traded two of their long-mocked trio of Looney Tunes in a three-team deal to acquire Denver Nuggets center Nene. It was an obvious reaction to what had become clear over the course of the first two months of the shortened 2011-12 season: to move forward, the Wizards needed to alter their "put youth together and see what sticks" philosophy.
To properly understand just how stunning this deal was, consider this initial reaction:
There are so many questions that still need to be answered about Thursday's trade deadline blockbuster that brought Nene to the Wizards, JaVale McGee to the Nuggets and Nick Young to the Clippers. Here's one thing that's inescapably clear, though: so much for Ted Leonsis' plan.
The Wizards objected to that language then, and you could argue the point now depending on your definition of Leonsis' "plan." But since that date, the Wizards:
- Acquired two veterans from the Hornets in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza
- Declined to use a high second-round pick in a deep draft on a player that could join the team immediately because there wasn't enough roster space.
- Signed young veterans Martell Webster and A.J. Price.
- Jettisoned Microwave-in-training Jordan Crawford for peanuts because of his reported immaturity.
Ergo, the team's actions in the year following the Nene deal back up the original hypothesis.
The big question then: was this philosophical change worth the price of the then-29-year-old Nene's massive five-year, $67 million contract?
As one year approaches, we can start to answer that question. We've seen Nene be effective when healthy, but consistently banged-up. We've seen a more organized half-court offense, but we've also seen few young players, including John Wall, make significant strides. We've seen a more professional locker room, but injuries have complicated our ability to properly evaluate its effect with the on-court product. Meanwhile, in Denver, the Nuggets have paid McGee, but as they keep clawing up the deep Western Conference food chain, they've received sometimes-brilliant and sometimes-irrelevant contributions from their second-highest-paid player.
The verdict on this trade isn't close to being sealed. Nevertheless, at this point, we have plenty of time to see how this has played out. In this multi-part feature, we'll take a look at all the different ways Nene has changed this Wizards team and try to judge whether the move was the right one.