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.
In acquiring Nene, the Wizards have moved up their timeline to compete to far sooner than originally expected. Not only is Nene not young (29), but he also just signed a five-year, $67 million contract last winter. In essence, the Wizards decided it'd be better off to pay Nene's deal for four more years than give a similar deal to McGee. Centers are hard to find, sure, but if the Wizards truly were sticking to Leonsis' plan, they'd probably either pay McGee or find a young center option and kick the can down the road a little further until they were ready to compete.
Instead, they've chosen this option. You could argue that the Wizards got one of the NBA's top centers for two impending free agents they probably weren't keeping, but in this case, that means the Wizards are now committed to that center for a long time. If Nene slows down -- and his numbers, albeit over a small sample, indicate he may already be slowing down -- the Wizards are on the hook for a bad contract.
Whether abandoning the Plan was the right call remains to be seen. Either way, it's abandoning the Plan.
Some more thoughts about this move:
Why did the Nuggets trade Nene? This is the element of the deal that has me most confused. Denver is in sixth place in the Western Conference despite dealing with injuries to arguably their two best players (Nene and Danilo Gallinari). It was three months ago that they handed him what essentially is a maximum contract (without being the maximum contract). Why are they trading Nene?
Reports are trickling out now that the Nuggets had "buyers remorse," whatever that means.
League source says Nuggets had experienced some "buyer's remorse" after signing often-injured Nene to a five-year, $67M deal in Dec. '11.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) March 15, 2012
That attempt came approximately a month ago,if not longer. Not too long after Denver gave Nene $67 million extension.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) March 15, 2012
Here, the same logic that had me worried about a deal for Andrew Bogut applies. Why would the Nuggets trade Nene if there is something going on that we don't know? Why would they already have buyer's remorse? Shouldn't that be a bit of a red flag?
What Nene does well: The good news about this trade is that Nene's a really good fit with John Wall. Few players in the league set harder screens, and few centers have better ball skills to execute dribble-handoffs. Nene has also historically been incredibly efficient with his limited usage, posting incredibly high true shooting percentages in each of the last three years. He led the NBA in TS% in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and he posted a career-high mark of 65.7 percent last year. That's insanely efficient.
He isn't the kind of guy who you throw the ball to in the post and let him go to work (though the Nuggets did do some of that last year). He also can get overwhelmed every so often with length, but there are only a few teams in the league that offer that. In short: if he plays at the level he played at last year, or at least approximates it, this is a steal. But at age 29 with an injury history, is that realistic?
How this impacts cap space: The answer: not all that much. Essentially, the Wizards decided they'd rather pick up the four years and $52 million left on Nene's deal than give a comparable contract to McGee. At the end of the day, if the Wizards use the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche and buy out Rashard Lewis for $13 million, the Wizards' total team salary will be just over $41 million. Add in about $4-5 million for the salaries of their first-round pick, and the Wizards will probably have about $12-13 million in cap space.
That's not enough to chase a maximum player, but it is enough to get some pieces. And they should get some pieces. You don't trade for someone like Nene, then pass on free agency.
Bottom line: This certainly accelerates the timeline to compete. For an organization that has preached the slow and steady route for so long, this is certainly a massive change of heart, for better or worse.