The Denver Nuggets have traded their 6-foot-11 center to the Washington Wizards for one of the dumbest, most immature players in the league. And yet, it's not as bad as it sounds.
Just before the trade deadline yesterday, Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri sent Nene to Washington in exchange for center JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf, who will likely be waived.
The goal of this trade is really to get out from under the five-year, $67 million contract Nene signed with the Nugs before the season.
After inking the Brazilian big-man to a deal that pays him over $15 million a season, Nuggets management watched him miss fifteen out of 43 games this season, which is not an entirely new habit for Nene. He has been injury-prone throughout his career and missed all but one game of the 2005-06 season.
He also dropped his field-goal percentage from a league-leading 62 last year to 51 this year. In all likelihood, the fourth and fifth years of Nene's contract are going to be a mess. And as much as Nuggets management wanted to keep one of its few good draft picks from the last decade, especially one it helped through testicular cancer, the suits saw that coming.
This trade provides flexibility for the future and will force the young Nuggets big men to step up. The Nuggets also received a $13 million trade exception and a future second-round draft pick in the deal.
To be clear, Nene is a much better player than McGee so no one will argue this was an even talent-swap -- and that's not to mention McGee's abundant maturity issues (more on this later).A major factor in this trade was that Nene missed so much time this year that Nuggets management got a chance to take a longer look at some of the young, tall guys, namely rookie Kenneth Faried.
Despite head coach George Karl saying before the year that Faried would not play, he earned minutes through sheer hustle and opportunity. When Nene went down, Faried stepped in and did exactly what anyone who watched him in college expected him to do -- run around possessed, grab rebounds, play defense and crush crowd-enticing dunks.
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When healthy, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos have been pleasant surprises, considering they both look like big, white stiffs. Factor in whatever the team can get from the Birdman and management was willing to get a little worse in the short term to provide more salary cap space to potentially get better in the future.
As for McGee, he is seven-feet tall, blocks shots at the third-highest rate in the league, leaps and runs exceptionally well for someone his size and has a seven-feet-six-inch wingspan. He is also a world-class knucklehead. For proof, take a few minutes to watch the video below, entitled "JaVale McGee Top 8 Dumb Plays."
The good news? McGee is averaging 11.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this year, which is actually not that different from the 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game the Nuggets were getting from Nene. The better news is that McGee is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Nuggets can essentially use the rest of the year as an audition. In the off-season, the Nuggets will be able to match any contract offers McGee receives from another team or they can simply let him walk should he not show any signs of growth.
This deal provides the Nuggets extra money to potentially give to Wilson Chandler should they work out a deal and Ty Lawson when he becomes eligible for an extension.
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Karl was particularly wistful in seeing Nene go because the two had gone through battles with cancer together. But even he might be happy in three years that the Nuggets are not paying Nene $15 million to grab six rebounds a game and get fouled on layups he should have dunked.
Just for proper punctuation, below is a video of McGee and former teammate Nick Young attempting to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon.
More from our Sports archive: "Denver Nuggets: Signing Nenê and other moves they should make in free agency."