Bye Bye Baby: 10 Reasons the Denver Nuggets Need to Trade Nene Now
Nene, the veteran center on the Denver Nuggets, is a unique character.
He's one of only four Brazilians to currently play in the NBA.
His name Nene means “baby” in Portuguese, quite an ironic moniker for such a massive man.
And he's the only player in the NBA to have only one name, making him stand out from the crowd even more.
Nene's a soccer player by heart, despite his 6'11” frame, and he brings a finesse game to the frontcourt.
Indeed, Nene is a beast of a human being, but his aggressiveness is absolutely absent.
And really, there are many more negatives in Nene's game.
He's not a great rebounder, he's got attitude problems and he's soft on defense.
Plus, Nene's been talking about wanting a trade if the Nuggets go to a "youth movement," he may just get his wish.
For those reasons, and many more, the Denver Nuggets need to trade Nene now (after Carmelo Anthony is eventually dealt) and look toward the future of the franchise.
Nene's a Power Forward Playing the Center Position
Nene began his career as a power forward, and even though he's an inch short of 7' tall, he's much more suited for that position instead of center.
Nene's got a burly, stocky body, good for a stout power forward that bangs around against other physical players in the paint.
But the elite centers are taller than Nene, with long, lanky arms and the ability to block or at least affect shots on a consistent basis.
So on many nights, Nene is out matched by bigger opponents, which gets in his head, gets him frustrated and gets Nene into foul trouble.
And when the Nuggets (who have two power forwards starting) play against teams like the LA Lakers (who have two centers starting) Denver gets dominated down low and on the boards.
The Nuggets need a true center, something they haven't had since the departure of Marcus Camby three years ago.
He's Soft on Defense
Nene's not good at defense, for a few reasons.
First, he tries to stop and take charges too often, hardly ever getting one called in his favor.
Next, Nene likes to watch as opponents soar through the air almost unimpeded as he silently stands with both arms straight in the air, or more often than not, with them down at his sides.
I mean, look at the photo above. Nene's standing flat-footed, looking to try to draw a charge somehow as his opponent is already between him and the basket.
Nene takes bad positioning on the defensive side of the court, and he's more concerned with avoiding a foul than making a strong stop—he'd rather try to take a charge than block a shot and averages less than one block per game for his career (0.9).
He almost never leaves his feet to go all-out after a shot, and too often, Nene gets ticky-tack fouls instead of dishing out a physical pounding that leaves opponents wondering whether or not they should bring the ball down the lane again.
Nene could be one of the most intimidating defenders in the league, instead, he's an afterthought because of his passive play.
Nene's a Bad Rebounder
Simply put, Nene just doesn't rebound nearly enough.
For a starting center, Nene's career average of 6.9 rebounds per game is pathetic, and this season's 7.4 RPG is only middle-of-the-pack at 14th among starting centers in the NBA.
Nene doesn't box out well, it's something he still struggles with in his ninth season.
He often finds himself out of position to smaller defenders that can grab the board in front of him as he observes.
And other times Nene tips at loose basketballs, tapping them out beyond the arc where they usually end up in the other teams' hands.
Overall, a center needs to rebound, plain and simple, and Nene's seven double-doubles are a mere 49th in the NBA.
He's Got a Terrible Attitude
Nene's a bit of a head case, as are many of the Nuggets.
For whatever reason, he "gets out of games" early if he's not involved enough, he doesn't give it his all on either end of the court and gets lost in the action of the game.
That's straight up inexcusable for an eight-year veteran that wants to go to his first All-Star Game this February.
And on top of that, he constantly complains to the referees, which adversely affects him because they seem to be less likely to call fouls in his favor when Nene whines like a newborn.
He Isn't Aggressive Enough on Offense
Nene can be overpowering, domineering and dominant on the offensive side of the ball.
He can be, but what makes him so frustrating to watch is that he's so passive almost always even though Nene is No. 1 in the NBA in field goal percentage.
Nene's got a solid post game, with quick feet for a big man, and when he feels like it, he dunks thunderously.
But most nights, he will get the ball deep in the paint and pass it back out to teammates standing at the three-point line instead of going up for a higher percentage shot from short.
And when he does shoot, Nene tries to lay the ball up instead of devastatingly dunking it all over opponents, not finishing many times and getting two free throws instead of and-ones on fouls.
Nene Is Injury-Prone
Injuries are just a harsh reality in sports, and Nene has been a bit unlucky when it comes to them.
Nene sprained his MCL in his right knee in 2004-05 and tore the ACL in the same knee in 2005-06 after playing only three minutes into the season. Overall, from 2004-07, he missed over 160 games due to injury or sickness, and everyone holds their breath when they see him go down.
And a side effect of Nene's injuries is him not playing to his full potential offensively because he's possibly worried about going too hard and hurting himself again.
Still, he's been relatively injury-free for the last two seasons, meaning other teams may be more willing to trade for him now.
He's Already Reached His Full Potential
Nene's currently enjoying his best season as an NBA player, and in his ninth season as a professional, it's safe to say he's in his prime, but it's also not a stretch to say he's reached his potential.
His 15 PPG are a career-high, but it's only slightly better than the last two seasons' numbers (14.6, 13.8). And Nene's 7.4 RPG are high for him but overall his rebounds are actually on the decline over that same time (7.8, 7.6).
He is scoring at the highest percentage in the NBA this season (64.6 percent), but his blocks (0.8), steals (1.0) and assists (2.1) are all down compared to the last two seasons too.
Nene's efficient with scoring meaning his scoring numbers are slightly better, but overall, he's not really progressing as a player; he has basically plateaued.
The Veteran Wouldn't Fit into a Nuggets Youth Movement
Nene said himself that if the Nuggets go completely young post-Melo he doesn't want to be part of the team, opting to go to the Heat, Mavericks or another undisclosed team.
And it's a good thing because he wouldn't fit in anyway.
Yes, it would be nice to have a veteran center when a vast majority of the rest of the squad can't even rent a car yet, but Nene isn't a leader.
Nene's selfish; He wants the ball on many possessions, and he gets upset when he's not involved enough. And he would set a bad example with his constant complaining to officials, a characteristic of the current Nuggets that needs to be changed.
His Contract Runs Out in 2012, with a Player Option in 2011
Nene's contract, one that was back-loaded and is paying him $11.4 million this season and would pay him $11.6 million next year, ends in 2012.
But the Brazilian big man has a player option that allows him to opt out of his current deal a year early, this summer, just like Carmelo Anthony.
Meaning, the Nuggets could find themselves in an even much more precarious position if they play the "wait and see" game with Melo and Nene—Denver could lose two of their most important players without any compensation.
The grumble that Nene leaked a week ago about his displeasure in Denver is enough for the Nuggets to move him now before he has the chance to opt out early.
And even if he does chose to stay next year and take the big money, what would Denver do then? Do they deal him as future salary cap relief or resign him to another extension?
Nene's contract situation is yet another in the long line of complications that the Nuggets new front office is trying to work through, but the first move has to be Melo because Denver needs as many pieces as possible available to throw in if necessary. And who knows, Nene may even be included in some new deal that has yet to be thought up.
As the trade deadline nears, anything is possible.
The Nuggets Need To Trade Him While His Value Is at Its Peak
As was said earlier, Nene is playing at a career-high level, meaning his trade value should be as high as it's going to be.
With Yao Ming hurt and no one other than rookie Blake Griffin really dominating, Nene's been the talk of the NBA as deserving of his first All-Star appearance. Whether or not he makes it remains to be seen and decided by the coaches as they replace Yao, but he could find himself as an All-Star this season as the stars align.
Plus, his contract situation makes him a valuable asset because he can possibly be used as salary cap relief for next year, or his new team could attempt to coax him to resign with them.
What Can Denver Get for Nene?
It's difficult to say for sure what Denver could get for Nene.
It seems unlikely a team would be willing to give up a young center, as there are so few in the NBA currently, but a young power forward might be in the realm of possibilities.
Or the Nuggets could look to fill the void that will be left by Melo at the small forward position.
Or Denver could just take picks, although a high first rounder may be out of the question, it depends on what teams though processes are at the time of trade talks.
No one knows for sure.
What is certain is that the Nuggets need to trade Nene now, even though he's playing his best basketball and because that exact reason and the many others stated in this piece here.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com and a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com.
Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.
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