(Part 1 of 14)
At 28 years old, Nene is coming off of his best season. He averaged career highs in field goal (.619) and free throw percentage (.735) and was just shy of reaching his high in points (14.5) and rebounds (7.6). And along providing the Nuggets with a more consistent effort on both sides of the ball.
After battling injuries earlier in his career (torn ACL in 2005 and testicular cancer in 2007) Nene has been injury-free over the previous three seasons, missing only 12 games in the last three seasons and he was also a key in the Nuggets’ playoff run in 2009 and just recently has stepped up his game in the post-Melo era.
While he still has his flaws and is a untraditional center, Nene has been far more consistent this season and a more dominant force in the paint. In the playoffs, he was able to average over 14 points and nine rebounds a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder’s tough post defenders, despite them intentionally fouling him to put him on the line (where he only shot .563).
He still remains a mediocre rebounder and help defender and is too unselfish on the offensively side of the ball, but he possesses great moves in the paint, quick hands on defense and may be hardest player to replace on the Nuggets roster. There are very few talented big man in the NBA and even fewer that are as athletic as Nene.
The Nuggets top priority is to lock him up for long term (if he opts out of his player option) and Nene has said he would prefer to resign with Denver. His wife is from Colorado and the couple is expecting their first child. However, if Nene does demand too much money the Nuggets may just take a pass and start Timofey Mozgov or trade for a similar player or find one in free agency:
- Marc Gasol, Memphis (FA)-Gasol (11.7 points, 7 rebounds) is probably the most similar player to Nene in free agency. He, like Nene, is very skilled but is a bigger, younger and much slower player. Gasol has been a key for the Grizzlies jumping out to a 3-2 advantage of No. 1 seeded San Antonio. He has used his size to give Tim Duncan fits and has become more aggressive on both ends of the floor. One has to wonder if the Grizzlies, who just signed Zach Randolph to a four-year extension and gave Rudy Gay a max contract before the season would be willing to put out more money to keep Gasol. The New York Knicks are one of the teams that have expressed interest in Gasol.
- Tyson Chandler, Dallas (FA)- Chandler has been huge for the Mavericks defense this season. And while he isn’t a great offensive player, his length and defense will get him paid. He was second in votes for Defensive Player of The Year, just behind Dwight Howard.
- DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers (RFA)-This 22-year-old center has a big upside and could be a poor man’s Dwight Howard. But since there seems to be a lot of interest in Jordan, whoever signs him will have to overpay to get him. The Clippers are interested in keeping him – but the Knicks have also shown interest in the big man.
- Yao Ming, Houston (FA)-Two season’s ago Ming was considered the top center in the NBA, but a couple of season-ending injuries later and Ming may have to take a significant pay cut. Any team that signs him will have to take enormous gamble that may pay off. Ming has only played five games in two seasons, but before that he was a perennial 20 point scorer.
- Greg Oden (RFA) – Oden, like Ming has suffered through injuries that have ruined a once promising career. He has only played 82 games in four seasons, but when he does play he is an anchor of any defense. But that is few and far between.
- Al Jefferson, Utah (Trade)-With the emergence of Derrick Favors, Jefferson (18.7, 9.7) may find himself on the block. Jefferson has one of the best footwork in the NBA and is one of the few big man that can go for 20-10 consistently. However, Jefferson is more expensive than Nene and there remains questions about his attitude.
Tags: Al Harrington Al Jefferson Carmelo Anthony Dallas Mavericks DeAndre Jordan Denver Nuggets Greg Oden Houston Rockets Los Angeles Clippers Marc Gasol Memphis Grizzlies Nene New York Knicks Tyson Chandler Utah Jazz