14.2 ppg | 5.5 rpg | 2.9 apg | 0.9 bpg | .503 FG%
IMPACT ON THE TEAM
At this point, the only real question mark with Nene is his health. Once again, last season, Nene missed significant time due to injury; but when he was healthy, he was one of the most productive fours in the league. Nene missed 29 games, primarily because of a sprained MCL he suffered in February, but he returned just in time for the playoffs. When he was healthy, he averaged 14.2 points per game, just off of his career-high of 14.6, and chipped in 5.5 boards and a career-high 2.9 assists per game. The MCL injury came at a very inopportune time, as he was playing some of his best basketball in February, including a career-high 30 point effort. He is so important to this team on and off the court, as he was and will continue to be one of the unquestioned veteran leaders on the squad.
Nene's offensive game showed a certain level of explosiveness last year that we hadn’t seen all the time during his first full season with the team. During stretches of the year, he played some of the best offensive basketball of his career, combining his physical presence in the paint with his midrange touch. Nene's overall offensive game has evolved over the years, and it showed this year, as he was at his best outside of the paint. His midrange game improved drastically from the previous year, and he was well above average from 16-24 feet and was league average from 8-16 feet. This helped open up the Wizards’ offense in a big way, providing more space for Gortat in the paint and more space for Wall to operate in general. His shooting percentage of 50.3% was top 10 amongst power forwards, all the more impressive considering that most of the players ahead of him take a higher percentage of their shots in the paint.
Nene is also such a good facilitator for a big man that the Wizards can run their offense out of him from either post for a different look. Among all big men, Nene ranked 13th in the NBA at 2.9 assists per game. He sees the flow of the game phenomenally well, and the Wizards rely on his offensive IQ in a big way. Nene's usage and pace ratings also went up this past season as when he was in the lineup, he was healthier than the previous year when he played with plantar fasciitis. The part of Nene's game that inexplicably suffered was his free throw shooting, which fell to 58.3%, his worst percentage since his rookie year. It's safe to say that improving his free throw shooting will be a focus for the Brazilian big man this offseason and next season.
On the other end, Nene and Gortat formed a quality defensive pairing down low. As a team, the Wizards ranked in the top 10 in fewest points allowed by opposing big men and rebounds conceded to opposing frontcourts. The Wizards were over three points better defensively when Nene was on the floor, a number which led everybody on the squad last season. Nene and Gortat together provided an imposing, physical defensive duo in the paint, and it consistently forced teams away from playing in the high percentage areas.
In his 12th NBA campaign, Nene had some of his best personal single game performances. Despite a long and successful career, Nene had never scored 30 points in a game; but that changed this year, as he achieved that milestone twice. The first time occurred in a win over LA at home, and capped a six game stretch when he scored at least 20 four times. He was 13/22 from the field over 37 minutes of work. The second time was in the game just before his MCL injury, a win over New Orleans at home. Nene scored his final two points on the game winning bucket with under a second to play, as Wall drove the lane and found Nene at literally the last second. He finished that contest 13/19 in 33 minutes. The overall highlight of the season though had to be his dunk and subsequent mean mugging of a certain LeBron James.
When the playoffs came around, Nene was brilliant in the first round, getting the better of defensive player of the year Joakim Noah in their head to head matchup. Over his four games, he averaged 17.8 points, 6.5 boards and 3.3 assists, all up from his regular season averages. He set the tone for the series by going for 24 and eight in the all-important opener in Chicago. He was, of course, suspended for game four, and the team rallied in his absence, shellacking the Bulls at home. Ted Leonsis sat courtside in a Nene jersey and the entire crowd chanted 'free Nene.' He took a step backwards in the Indiana series along with the rest of the team, averaging only 11 points and 4.5 rebounds. He had his best games of the Indiana series in the game one win and in the series closing game 6.
Nene will be back manning the four spot for the Wizards in 2014-15 next to Gortat with the two players continuing their front court partnership. The Wizards are now a significantly deeper team at the four and five with the addition of Blair and Humphries, meaning that the team could potentially limit Nene's minutes during the regular season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Wittman also could elect to give him some nights off as the season goes along in order to attempt to keep him healthier. The Wizards’ starting five outscored opponents by over 10 points per 100 possessions; and while the lineup will be a bit different this year, it will still be an elite unit with Nene in the middle of most of it. First for Nene though? A trip to Spain to play for Brazil in the FIBA World Cup.