As the season has progressed, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has been desperately trying to find a way to get his team to get consistent bench scoring. His answer may have fallen right into his lap over these last couple of games. Nene, who was the starter at the power forward at the beginning of the season and thought to be for the entire season, has missed various games throughout the season as his body cripples right before our eyes and could possibly be the player who enhances this Wizards bench.
Before I start, it has been a small sample size. We have only seen Nene come off the bench in the last two games. However, it has looked like a move that could benefit the Wizards greatly moving forward and I am all for it.
In the Wizards two games with Nene coming off the bench they have captured wins against the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics on the road. Nene piled in 17 of the Wizards season-high 45 bench points in the matchup against the Nets and then an incredibly effective 13 point, 8 rebound, 5 assist stat line in the win at Boston. It is obvious that Nene can score the basketball and help the bench directly just by his play, but there are many reasons whY I think Wittman should possibly stick with Nene off the bench for the forseeable future.
For starters, it will limit his minutes. Nene, who is 31 years old, is becoming more injury-prone as the days go by. He has already missed seven games this season and will likely be atop the league leaders in gametime decision injury reports as the season goes on. His body is just not ready to go each and every night, which is why him coming off the bench is a smart move.
In the last two games, Nene has seen a little over 22 minutes in both contests. He had never played less than 25 minutes in the 16 games he started. Playing an aging big man like Nene 30-plus minutes is a recipe for petty injuries throughout the season. I know he has probably seen only 22 minutes the last two games because they are weeding him back into action, but if he can be as effective as he has been in around 25 minutes a game, there is no need for Nene to be playing 30-35 minutes a game. The Wizards need him healthy down the stretch and averaging big minutes will most likely not allow that to happen.
The play of Trevor Booker is another reason why Nene coming off the bench will not hurt this Wizards team as much as some think. Booker has started six games in Nene’s absence and looked solid. He has averaged 10.2 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds per game in those starts. With perimeter players as good as the Wizards have in John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Trevor Ariza, 10 points and eight rebounds from your power forward will get it done. Booker has shown the ability to bring a presence in the starting lineup, like when he had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a game against the Atlanta Hawks not too long ago. If you can get solid minutes from Booker and limit Nene’s minutes at the same time, why not take advantage of that? It will only help the Wizards down the road this season.
I wrote about how bad the Wizards backup point guard play has been earlier this week and how it has affected the Wizards second unit, but with Nene in the second unit for Wittman’s squad, there will be instant improvement. Nene is a highly polished big man, who can score with his back to the basket, knock down mid-range jumpers, as well as set-up open teammates. The Wizards will have the ability to minimize the terrible backup point guard play by running the offense out of Nene in the post or high post. His five assists against the Celtics showed his ability to put teammates in position to have success. He found teammates for layups while operating out of the high post as well as with his back to the basket. He is a uniquely skilled big man, who will make everyone around him better. This will make the bench better, which will make the Wizards much more dangerous.
It is not about who starts the game; it is about who finishes and that will be true with this Nene situation. I think the Wizards should have him come off the bench, but find a way to get the rotations so he is closing out games for this ball club. Nene getting less minutes will help his body stay healthy, but it will also allow him to be really get after it in his shorter spurts on the court. In Boston last week, he was active on the defensive end as I can remember all season. He had two steals and a block and was quick on his defensive rotations. I think him being more effective on offense and defensive is something we could become more accustomed to in Nene’s short spurts of the bench, instead of becoming tired logging starter minutes.
Wittman has been adamant that he Nene will continue to have Nene come off the bench and I think it is a wise move for this team, which is improving each and every day.