All throughout the offseason, we've heard the same lines repeated over and over again: The Wizards need a stretch four. A stretch four will give John Wall and Marcin Gortat better spacing and help the Wizards' offense. Jared Dudley will fill the Wizards' role as a stretch four.
Clearly, the Wizards need someone who can shoot the ball well from that spot moving forward. To Nene's credit, it appears like he's trying to keep his name in consideration for minutes, according to CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Wall said he's heard that the big Brazilian has been working on his 3-point shot.
That's great to hear, because his inability to take and make threes hurt his efficiency last season. Nene ranked to 140th out of 167 players in effective field goal percentage among players who took at least 2.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game.
That's bad, but it comes with a caveat: Effective field goal percentage is weighted to give extra benefit to players who take and make three pointers. If you're willing to take a step back and look strictly at Nene's field goal percentage in catch-and-shoot opportunities, it's very good. He shot 45.1 percent on those opportunities last year, the 18th best mark in the league. If you isolate the shots strictly to two point attempts, he shot 45.5 percent, the 15th best mark in the league, ahead of players who can shoot well from beyond the arc like Kevin Martin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Serge Ibaka. So the issue isn't necessarily that Nene can't shoot, he just can't shoot it with the range he needs to be efficient.
All of this begs the question: Why doesn't Nene just shoot the ball from further out if he's so good from 15-20 feet? To answer that, let's take a look at this deep shot he hit against the Hawks in last year's playoffs:
Nene shoots with poise and shows great upper-body mechanics, but look at how little he actually jumps on his shot. It's difficult to maintain a high level of efficiency from further out with that kind of a jump, which is why you see so many players struggle to make the leap from good mid-range shooter to good long range shooter. Players can overcome this, but they're the exception, not the norm.
But even though the odds are stacked against Nene becoming a viable threat beyond the arc, there is still some reasons for hope. Let's take a look back at the one three-pointer he made last season:
Nene may not pass off for Ray Allen here, but you can see he's getting more leg into his shot without sacrificing the rest of his shooting form. That's good! And if he's really putting in the work this summer, there's no reason why he can't get to the point where he can at least exploit defenses who are leaving Nene open around the arc to congest driving and passing lanes.
Still, the challenge for Nene next season won't be figuring out his optimal shooting range. The big challenge will be determining how to best use his post-up game. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Seraphin gone, the Wizards don't really have another big man who can create offense for himself or others very well with their back to basket. Problem is, Nene isn't what he used to be with his back to the basket. Compare how he performed backing down his opponent as compared to just shooting the ball:
Nene can do wonders for the his efficiency and the Wizards' efficiency just by cutting down on how many times he posts up next season. Obviously, they'll still need his post-up game at times, but if the team can reallocate those possessions to more efficient scoring options, the Wizards can improve their offense when Nene is on the floor next season, even if he doesn't turn into a consistent three point threat.
With the way the roster is set up now with so many stretch four options, Nene won't be asked to log as many minutes as power forward this season. Still, the Wizards are going to need him to spend some time there next season. Even if he doesn't develop into a true stretch four next season, he can still make some tweaks to his game to help the offense run smoother when he's out there next season.