home Blogs A Wizards life without Nene and the concept of small ball

A Wizards life without Nene and the concept of small ball

WIZtory 101, in a capsule: As a measure to extract the remaining excrement of various front office failures, the Wizards acquire an assembly of sporadically, yet conveniently proven spare ligaments from Denver.

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When the Wizards shipped away JaVale McGee and Nick Young during the expiring minutes of the NBA trade deadline back in 2012 they were, more so than anything else, doing so consciously on the basis of exiling immaturity and rinsing off the childlike aura that had overtaken their locker room.

So who would the Wizards’ brain trust eventually establish as a viable replacement? This can also be asked in the context of, who will be the disinfectant that polishes away the cruddy mishandles of Earnest and company?

The Denver Nuggets had a guy. A guy good enough to have been signed to a contract extension worth $60 million over the next five years, but evidently, he was also a guy mysterious enough to trade away shortly after signing said extension.

The intent of the Nuggets’ brass was apparent. Nene was practically on makeshift legs and the concept of paying him $13 million a season no longer made sense. This knowledge had sobered up then Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and the idea of replacing him with an energetic and stretchy young center was enough to score the exchange.

The Wizards, meanwhile, would understand that Nene would come with exceeded baggage, and I don’t just mean Brian Cook’s line-drive 3’s. The Wizards understood that the Nuggets had suffered from buyer’s remorse and were opting not to deal with potential injurious setbacks over the next five contract years with Nene. The Wizards understood that with Nene coming aboard they would incur possible inconsistencies but also figured that any trickle of production left in him was worth it if it meant ridding themselves of the remaining stagnates on the team…even if at a considerable price.
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Looking back, the fears that loomed over Wizards Nation once Nene was acquired have essentially become realities over the time Nene has spent here. His sporadic availability has been all but dealt with, as evidenced in the Wizards’ 8-34 record when he’s not in the lineup.

Before being diagnosed with a sprained left MCL yesterday, Nene had been in the lineup for 33 consecutive games, his longest stretch in a Wiz uni. Based on that, it’s hard to be surprised that a setback was finally due for the crumbling Brazilian. It’s equally hard to soak in the reality of Nene’s absence after witnessing his dramatic career night and game winner against the Pelicans the night before.

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But what’s done is done. Nene will be shelved once again, this time for the next six weeks or so and the (#So)Wizards will encounter their most critical stretch of the season without their honorable mention. If you believe in God, you’d say this all happened for a reason and that it was His will (ironically, this is also what Nene would say). If you believe in karma, you’d say this was driven by some game official victimized by Nene’s unforgiving non-call glares and echoes of choice Portuguese curse words.

Though Nene’s injury was feared for the worst (a season-ending/career-jeopardizing ACL tear), his six week absence and rehab/recovery will still remain a daunting spectacle. Our beloved fan base on #WizardsTwitter has been trying to maintain optimism, sugarcoating the loss of the team’s interior anchor with hopes of compensation via the final open roster spot and also citing the team’s soft remaining schedule.

But ultimately, the proof is in the numbers:

The Wizards are 1-6 this season without Nene in the lineup.
The Wizards were 3-18 last season with Nene in the lineup.
The Wizards are 8-34 overall without Nene in the lineup.
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Sincere #NeneHands godly in the paint.
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Much of the Wizards’ offense succeeds with Nene on the floor. His high post threat spaces the floor greatly not only because of his ability to knock shots from that distance but also the fluid movement around him. Pick and rolls, backcutters, and spot up shooting are all benefactors of Nene’s high post presence and passing and without it the Wizards are due for some struggle.

His defensive efficiency? Let’s just say the Wizards have the best defensive efficiency rating with Nene on the floor.

There are five lineups #WittmanFace exploits that have registered over 100 total minutes this season. Their most used lineup, a starting 5 of Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene, and Gortat is also their best defensive lineup, with a DefRtg of 95.7 in 482 total minutes played.

Evidently, the worst of those five lineups defensively are the two that exclude Nene, with defensive ratings of 101.5 and 112.1, while the three lineups with Nene average a defensive rating of 96.

As noted by @Truth_About_It this morning, be weary of this lineup. Let’s hope that the measure of just 2.9 mpg doesn’t truthfully define the defensive efficiency of this group, because we’ll see them often.

Also, remember that time Marcin Gortat bitched about not liking his position on offense when Nene was out? Gortat found himself handling the ball uncomfortably away from the basket, usually where Nene is placed. This caused for shaky shot selection, indecisiveness passing the ball, and a “dream shake” move ugly enough to make Hakeem Olajuwon want to file a lawsuit.

So how will the Wizards endure possibly 20-25 of their 28 remaining games having to play with a lineup that’s doomed them to a .166 winning percentage this season?

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Welcome to small ball.

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The Wizards essentially have two players…err…actually, just one player…who can truly play the center position. Kevin Seraphin has been ruled OUT tonight versus Orlando with a knee issue of his own. The other guy was mentioned above in Gortat.

We noticed some solid play by Trevor Booker in Nene’s previous absence, but ultimately he is a bit undersized to be able to consistently bang. Al Harrington, a stretch 4, is rarely seen working from the interior and not to mention he’s still baby-stepping his way back into the rotation.

Small ball seems to be the most viable fix for the Wizards at the moment, especially on defense. Trevor Ariza, the team’s axis on defense, would be most fitting for this type of unit and against most teams, should be able to comfortably rotate from the 2, 3 and 4 spots. Does this ring up a fresh dose of Chris Singleton? There’s not nearly enough to measure how much of an impact Singleton would be and I’m not sure how willing Wittman is to find out. And besides Gortat, the Wizards are left with Booker, Harrington and Seraphin as their primary “bigs,” all of whom have significant defensive flaws or are just too undersized. A combination of any of these could cancel out some of the discrepancies created by Nene’s loss but everything is pretty much on a need-to-know basis.

Neglectfully, the Wizards are looking to be fully engaged in #SoWizards mode as the final third of the season winds down and the critical push for playoff positioning commences. They wouldn’t be #SoWizards without a #SoWizards setback to deem them #SoWizards, therefore they are inevitably #SoWizards.

In the meantime, #Pray4Nene and pray for #WizardsTwitter. Pray to the basketball gods for #WittmanFace and pray for Drew Gooden to have an adequate method of transportation when he exits the Verizon Center next Friday.

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