Our look back at the 2012-13 season continues. Today's installment: Nene.
Basic stats: 12.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 53.8 true shooting percentage.
Contract status: Nene is under contract for three more years at $13 million a season, the result of a five-year contract he signed with the Nuggets immediately after the lockout. His contract value does not escalate.
Preseason expectations: Nene was supposed to anchor the team inside, but it was never clear when he was actually going to play after he limped around on an injured foor for Brazil in the Olympics. The hope was that the six weeks of rest from mid-August to training camp, combined with limited work in preseason, would be enough for him to heal by the season opener. Obviously, things didn't work out that way. Nene missed the first three weeks of the season, came back on a minutes limit for the next month and a half and never fully recovered.
Offense: The foot injury dramatically affected Nene's individual numbers, as I chronicled here. After starting the season well in limited minutes, Nene saw his scoring efficiency, shooting percentage at the rim and rebounding -- all numbers that in part rely on athleticism and lift -- take a tumble. He also shot much worse (and more often) from the perimeter than in past years and committed too many turnovers from overpassing.
And yet, Nene was still an essential part of the offense because of his versatility. The Wizards were nearly six points better offensively with Nene on the floor last year, according to NBA.com's stats page. His ability to act as a low-post outlet that both commands attention and willingly passes sets up a lot of the Wizards' offensive sets. He also helped win several close games later in the year running the pick and roll with John Wall late. Without Nene, the Wizards' offense just didn't have any diversity in their offense.
I just wish he could get back to his level of scoring efficiency in addition to all that.
Defense: Nene was good on this end as well, though the presence of Emeka Okafor helped. Nene was able to focus on blowing up pick and rolls and switching to guard smaller players instead of having to anchor a defense from inside. Nene also continued his ongoing trend of helping his team rebound by taking up space even though his individual rebound numbers are mediocre. The Wizards grabbed over 78 percent of available defensive boards with Nene in the game, according to NBA.com.
Did he meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? I expected more out of him, but it's tough to really evaluate because we don't know how much the injury affected him.
Overall: I said my piece on Nene here and I stick by all of it. While Nene is important to the team, he also is reaching the tail end of his prime and he declined this season. Hopefully, it was just the injury, but it's also possible that the Nene we saw in Denver isn't coming back. It'll be interesting to see if Randy Wittman transfers some elements of the offense over to other players and allow Nene to sink into more of a complementary role next season.