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Nene Year in Review

June 5, 2013

Jacob Raim |

MPG: 27.2   PPG: 12.6  RPG: 6.7  APG: 2.9  BPG: 0.6  SPG: 0.9  FG%: 48.0&  FT%:  72.9%


Any discussion with Nene's 2012-13 has to start with his health.  When Washington traded for Nene at the deadline in 2012, they were looking for him to step into the lineup and be an elite big man for Wall to work the high-low game.  Nene developed plantar fasciitis during the end of that season and he never really recovered before this one, spending his summer competing for Brazil in the Olympics.  This caused Nene to miss the first eight games of the season, and when he did return, it was in limited minutes off the bench.  It wasn't really until around February that Wittman allowed Nene to play major minutes, and it was clear that he was still playing through some pain, lacking some of the explosiveness we've seen from him in past seasons.
That being said, Nene was assuredly the Wizards number one option down low, an excellent facilitator from the post and an above average defender in the blocks, even when playing banged up.  His versatility was crucial to this team, particularly on offense, whether running the pick and roll with Wall, creating space for Okafor or drawing defenders and kicking to open shooters.  The team was six points better offensively when Nene was on the floor versus when he was not and he also was the Wizards +/- per game leader.  His finished the season as the team's third leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, and despite that being a lower number than in the past couple of seasons, he was right around his career average for points per 48 minutes. 
Nene's ability to distribute was also a huge part of the Wizards offense this year.  In the Wizards offensive system, he was given a lot of the responsibility for setting up many of the offensive sets from either the block or the high post.  Nene was top 10 in the NBA in terms of assists per game among big men, averaging just a tick under three assists per game.  Nene also averaged over an assist per game at the rim, showcasing his ability to draw double teams and feed Okafor for easy buckets. 
On defense, Nene and Okafor formed one of the top defensive frontcourt pairings in the league.  The Wizards allowed the fourth fewest points in the league to opponent’s frontcourts, and the third lowest shooting percentage at just 44%.  The Wizards frontcourt tandem also gave up the seventh fewest offensive boards to opponents big men per game.  Nene and Okafor working in tandem were responsible for the vast majority of these strong defensive numbers.
Where Nene did struggle a bit this year was with his mid-range game and some of his scoring efficiency in general.  Over the last two seasons, Nene's shooting percentage at the rim has dipped from around the 65% mark to the 60% mark.  His shooting percentage from 15-19 feet had been around 42% over the last four years and fell to about 32% this year.  These drop offs could be attributed to his injuries, limiting some of the explosiveness he needs to score down low and the lift he needs to be comfortable with his jump shot. 
The Wizards need a healthy Nene for so many reasons next year, and the hope is that a full summer of rest with no Olympics on the schedule, will help his body recover.  While Nene was certainly an effective player for the Wizards last year, he has the upside to give them even more.  It starts with being able to give more than 27 minutes per night, as over his career he's been a guy who in his best seasons has eaten up 32-33 minute per game.  Nene has never been a guy who has had foul troubles, as he's such a technically sound defender, so Wittman will have no problem giving him all the minutes he can handle.  Nene is signed for three more years so he will continue to anchor the post for the Wizards for a few more years to come.  Remember, when Wall, Beal, and Nene were all in the lineup, the Wizards went 15-7 last year and when they all started, the Wizards went 6-2.  If the Wizards three leading scorers can stay on the floor together, good things are on the horizon.